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Free electron microscopy

February 25, 2010


ASPEX is a company that builds tabletop Scanning Electron Microscopes (tabletop SEMs). To promote their product, they are offering free scanning of samples to the world at large.

Rendering of ASPEX's tabletop scanning electron microscope.

You can see a gallery of some of the scans they have made on their website. My favorite sample is an old stir bar some folks from sent in. The SEM can also use x-ray fluorescence (a byproduct of electron bombardment) from the samples for elemental composition analysis (called EDS or XFR) – in the case of the stir bar, the analysts found a microscopic chunk of Chromium stuck to the surface! Leftovers from some experiments, I guess. Wow.

a microscopic chunk of a Chromium-containing compound on the surface of an old stir-bar.

They emailed us recently inviting us to take advantage of their offer. It sounds pretty cool and I’m going to mail in a sample of one of Paul Stamet’s LifeBoxes.


I also casually asked if I could possibly borrow on of their tabletop SEMs for a couple of weeks to play with here in Boston, pretty please with sugar on top? They wrote back and said yes!

So sometime this spring they are going to drop off a demo unit for a couple of weeks and we are going to have a scanning electron microscope bonanza. Hopefully it will be so cool that ASPEX will be happy to lend the unit to other local diybio groups too.


So to mail a sample to ASPEX, check out their online instructions, print this PDF, and mail your sample to:

ASPEX Corporation
Free Sample Submissions
175 Sheffield Dr.
Delmont, PA 15626

Note: I’ve been told that they’ve gotten a lot of demand for the service and are a little backlogged, but that samples are scanned about 2-4 weeks after delivery and emailed to the sender (if you get an image back, post a link below).


Post a comment
  1. February 26, 2010

    Nice post!

    It’s a very cool gallery.

  2. May 16, 2010

    Nice post…Thank you for sharing some good things!!

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