Electron microscopes and ion beam microscopes are both amazing and incredibly complex scientific instruments used by research laboratories, universities, nanotechnology centers, and companies worldwide. Although few of us will ever own or use an electron microscope, their impact is pervasive, impacting our lives in a variety of ways, from the clothes we wear, to the tools and devices we use, and the food we eat. The applications for these instruments are diverse, ranging from particle analysis to material characterization to industrial failure analysis and process control. In the electronics industry, for example, semiconductor and electronics manufacturers use specialized microscopes for high resolution imaging and analysis required to develop and control the manufacturing process.
Companies worldwide use electron microscopes in a variety of industrial applications including aeronautics, automotive manufacturing, clothing and apparel, machining, pharmacology, and many more. Forensic science, the application of science to law, is one example made popular by the television show "CSI" and others. Microscopic analysis of gunshot residue, blood samples, or clothing fibers to help solve crime is common on TV, and in real life
In life sciences, electron microscopes are being used to explore the molecular mechanisms of disease, to visualize the 3D architecture of tissues and cells, to unambiguously determine the conformation of flexible protein structures and complexes, and to observe individual viruses and macromolecular complexes in their natural biological context.
In natural resources, the ability to characterize and analyze organic materials is critical for mining companies to analyze millions of micro-scale features in an automated, objective, quantitative, and rapid manner. In oil and gas exploration, similar analyses provide quantitative lithotype and porosity characteristics of reservoir, seal, and source rocks. The results enhance and validate seismic, wireline, and mud logs, providing input into geological models and reducing risk in exploration and extraction.
Researchers worldwide are using electron microscopes in the pursuit of a deeper understanding of the structure-property-function relationships in a wide range of materials and processes such as next generation fuel cell and solar cell technologies, catalyst activity and chemical selectivity, energy-efficient solid-state lighting, and lighter, stronger, and safer materials.
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