Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) laboratory

The Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) research laboratory is home to two scanning electron microscopes as well as sample preparation equipment. The lab is connected to the Light Microscopy laboratory which boasts research microscopes (stereo, compound, fluorescence, phase contrast, and polarizing) with digital cameras and software.

The facility provides services to honours and postgraduate students, research staff, research fellows, general staff, and commercial projects and consultancies.

Both electron microscopes are used for the investigation of biological and non-biological materials. The systems are equipped with SE (secondary) and BSE (backscatter detectors), X-Ray Analysis capabilities (EDS) and element distribution mapping. The Zeiss EVOLS-15 is also is fitted with VP and EP detectors, and a cold-stage and automated imaging using Zeiss Smart SEM AII (Automated Intelligent Imaging). The Hitachi TM4000 is fitted with High Sensitivity Low Vacuum SE Detector (UVD), cold stage and STEM.

SEM laboratory gallery

Grid arrangement of microscopic images

  1. Coccolithophore 
    Research: Associate Professor Kai Schulz, 'Predicting and understanding coccolithophorid calcification in a changing ocean' Centre for Coastal Biogeochemist. (Image taken on Zeiss EVOLS-15 – M.Dawes)
  2. Sea Anemone Embryo 
    Research: Dr Anna Scott, Scott A and Harrison PL (2007), 'Embryonic and larval development of the host sea anemones Entacmaea quadricolor and Heteractis crispa'. (Image taken on Leica 440 Stereoscan – A.Scott)
  3. Land Snail Gyrocochlea sp
    Research: Dr Jonathan Parkyn, 'Morphological investigations of the systematics of the speciose land snail genus Gyrocochlea' (Mollusca: Charopidae). (Image taken on Zeiss EVOLS-15 using VP Mode – M.Dawes)
  4. Cannabis sativa - trichome gland
    Research: Dr. Tobias Kretzschmar Southern Cross Plant Science
    Lee James Conneely, Ramil Mauleon, Jos Mieog, Bronwyn Barkla, Tobias Kretzschmar (2020) taken for MSc. Lee Conneely SCPS (Image taken on Hitachi TM4000 using Cold Stage – M.Dawes)
Microscopic image of Macadamia Lace Bug

Macadamia Lace Bug (Family Tingidate) Ulonemia decoris. Research: Craig Maddox – NSW Department Primary Industry, Entomology Branch. Lace bug research and the future of lace bug management Oct 2014. Image taken on Zeiss EVOLS-15 using VP Mode M.Dawes

Laboratory services

  • Electron microscopy biological and non-biological materials – imaging and analysis (Zeiss EVOLS-15 and Hitachi TM400)
  • EDS X-Ray analysis and element distribution mapping using Oxford INCA and Oxford AZTEC
  • Research Light Microscopy and imaging
  • Sample preparation using CPD drying or cold stage
  • Sputter Coating of samples with gold or carbon
  • Training in Basic and Advanced Scanning Electron Microscopy and SEM Sample preparation
  • Training in EDS X-Ray Analysis for materials science
  • Training in Light Microscopy Techniques.

SEM instrumentation

Zeiss EVO LS-15

Image of the Zeiss EVO LS-15 instrumentation

  • SE Detector (secondary electron)
  • VPSE Detector (variable pressure secondary electron)
  • EPSE Detector (extended pressure secondary electron)
  • Extended range Peltier Cooling Stage
  • 4Q BSD Detector (four quadrant back-scatter – lens mounted)
  • Zeiss Smart SEM AII (Automated Intelligent Imaging Software)
  • EDS Oxford Analysis- INCA X-Act SDD Detector (silicon drift detector - UTW) – quantitative and qualitative analysis, element distribution mapping.
  • Resolution: 3nm at 30kV, 10nm at 3kV, 20nm at 1kV
  • Accelerating Voltage – 3kv to 30kV
  • Large specimen chamber available.


Hitachi TM4000 plus desktop SEM

Image of Hitachi TM4000 plus desktop SEM instrumentation

  • SE (standard and charge-up reduction)
  • BSE (Conductor, standard and charge-up)
  • MIX – (standard and charge-up reduction)
  • Image Mode – Normal/Shadow 1/Shadow 2/TOPO
  • High sensitivity four-segment BSE Detector
  • High Sensitivity low vacuum SE detector (UVD)
  • Accelerating Voltage – 5kv, 10kv, 15kv
  • Automated – auto image adjustment: auto focus, auto brightness
  • Camera Navigation
  • EDS Oxford Analysis - AztecOne - SDD Detector (silicon drift detector - UTW) – quantitative and qualitative analysis, element distribution mapping.

Sample preparation equipment

All equipment for sample preparation is available in the lab.

  • Baltec 050 - Sputter Coater with Evaporative coater attachment (Au, Pt and C coating)
  • Quorum Technology Q150R ES Sputter Coater (Au, Pt and C coating)
  • Polaron 3100 - Critical Point Dryer
  • Ultramicrotome:  Reichert OMU3

Research light microscopes

Olympus CX41 Research Compound Microscope

  • CX-RFL Reflected light Fluorescence attachment
  • Phase Contrast Turret
  • Polarising lenses
  • Olympus DP26 Digital Camera
  • CellSens Imaging Software

Olympus SZX16 Research Stereo Microscope

  • Olympus DP26 Digital Camera
  • Olympus Ring Light
  • Olympus Fibre Optic (2 arm) Light
  • Polarising/Oblique

Leica DMS1000 Digital Microscope

  • Leica LAS Imaging Software

Olympus BHSM –NL-2 Research Metallurgical Polarizing Microscope

Training, booking and fees

The courses listed here are available to honours, postgraduate students, staff members (academic and professional), and commercial research/consultancy groups. For all training courses, bookings and enquiries, please contact Maxine Dawes.

Light Microscopy

All Light Microscope courses are offered on an individual needs basis, depending on type of work and microscope required.

Introduction to the SEM

This course covers Basic and Advanced SEM techniques as well as techniques in sample preparation and are povided for either the Zeiss EVO- LS15 or Hitachi TM4000 Desktop SEM.

Introduction to X-ray Analysis

This course covers X-ray Analysis using Energy Dispersive Analysis (EDS). Please note: A pre-requisite for this course is the Introduction to the SEM course.

All new users will be trained on the SEM on a one-to-one basis unless a group course is being held.

Maxine Dawes in the SEM lab

Contact us

Maxine Dawes
T: +61 2 6620 3661
M: +61 408 663 188
F: +61 2 6621 2669

Contact the Faculty of Science and Engineering

Executive Assistant to Executive Dean

T: +61 2 6620 3557


Please direct all faculty enquires to:

T: +61 2 6620 3650


National Marine Science Centre

T: +61 2 6659 8100