Skip navigation to main content.
NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
About NRELEnergy AnalysisScience and TechnologyTechnology TransferTechnology DeploymentEnergy Systems Integration

Scanning Electron Microscopy Tool

This page provides details on the scanning electron microscopy (SEM) tool in the Stand-Alone Measurements and Characterization bays of the Process Development and Integration Laboratory (PDIL). This tool enables the energy-dispersive spectrometry (EDS) technique.

Photo of man with glasses sitting in a chair, looking at two monitors with crystal images. To his right is a large white square unit with a smaller maesurement unit sitting on top at an angle. Further to the right and behind is a metal cylindrical chamber with flanges, held within a blue metal rack.

Researcher using a scanning electron microscope in the Process Development and Integration Laboratory.

This tool captures high-resolution images of surface topography of sample surfaces. This environmental SEM can analyze samples in high and low vacuum, eliminating charging problems commonly observed in high-resistivity samples. This tool is interfaced with a ultra-high-vacuum sample transfer station, which allows one to manipulate and transfer from/to other systems in the PDIL while keeping the sample in vacuum.


  • High-resolution imaging of photovoltaic materials and compositional analysis
  • Obtaining electro-optical information (a future application)
  • Analyzing hydrated and high-resistivity large-area samples using environmental SEM

Special features:

  • System is an FEI Quanta 600 with custom interface and chamber, enabling controlled sample transport
  • Three imaging modes: high-vacuum (<4.5x10-6 torr), low-vacuum (0.08 to 1.0 torr), and environmental extended low-vacuum (0.08 to 20 torr)
  • Can analyze large samples, up to 157 mm x 157 mm
  • Resolution is 3.0 nm at 30 keV (secondary electrons), and 4.0 nm at 30 keV (back-scattered electrons)
  • Probe current is continually adjustable up to 2 μA
  • 5-axis motorized stage
    • Z range = 65 mm
    • X,Y = 150 mm
    • Tilt = -5° to 70°
    • R = 360° continuous
  • Can record digital video with up to 4096 x 3536 pixel images
  • Detectors are Everhart-Thornley secondary electron detector (SED), large-field detector (LFD), gaseous SED (GSED), infrared/charge-coupled device (IR/CCD), and solid-state backscattered SED (BSED)

Contact Helio Moutinho for more details.