Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)

Bowdoin's scanning electron microscope allows one to see well beyond the powers of the naked eye. It can, for instance, provide details or reveal history about the composition and formation of rocks, minerals, clamshells, corals, and ancient coins.

A Tescan Vega3 LMU Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) equipped with an array of detectors that image samples (backscattered electron (BSE) and cathodoluminescence (CL) detectors) and collect quantitative data on chemical compositions and crystal orientations (energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS) and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) systems from Oxford Instruments) is located in Druckenmiller Room 108.

The personal-computer controlled instrument allows:

  • Digital imaging (up to 300,000x magnification at c. 1 nm resolution)
  • Chemical analysis
  • Crystal orientation mapping

The SEM (and its associated detectors) was funded through a grant from the Major Research Instrumentation program of the National Science Foundation.

Using the SEM 

The SEM is used by students and faculty throughout the college. A range of specimens may be imaged and analyzed, including minerals, microfossils, nematodes, plants, bone tools, and ceramics.or want more information? 

The instrumentation facilitates innovative research that involves professors, collaborators, students, and community partners and expands the breadth of scientific inquiry possible at Bowdoin College. The new instrumentation also provides undergraduate research training at the College. Undergraduate students use the SEM in multiple courses as well as during independent-study and summer research projects. These research projects train students to apply modern analytical techniques to original research questions and enhance the infrastructure for research across disciplines at the College.

Interested in using the SEM or want more information? Fill out the time request form.


Peterman, E.M., Reddy, S.M, Saxey, D.W., Snoeyenbos, D.R., Rickard, W.D.A., Fougerouse, D., and Kylander-Clark, A.R.C., 2016, Science Advances, Nanogeochronology of discordant zircon measured by atom probe microscopy of Pb-enriched dislocation loops.

Conference abstracts

* denotes undergraduate author

de Wet, C.M.*, Teeter, E.C.*, Peterman, E.M., and Beane, R.J., 2016, Optimizing cathodoluminescence imaging on the SEM, 2016, Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 48, no. 7., doi: 10.1130/abs/2016AM-285120

Peterman, E.M., Reddy, S., Saxey, D.W., Snoeyebos, D.R., Kylander-Clark, A., Rickard, W.D.A., and Fougerouse, D., 2016, Extracting geologic ages from isotopically distinct nanoscale reservoirs of Pb in discordant zircon by atom probe microscopy, Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 48, no. 7., doi: 10.1130/abs/2016AM-285451

Sullivan, W.A., and Peterman, E.M., A possible example of pulverized granite from the brittle-ductile transition, 2016, Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 48, no. 7., doi: 10.1130/abs/2016AM-283145

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under NSF MRI 1530963 to E. Peterman and R. Beane. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.