From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (
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Bureau of Economic Geology Technical Seminar, August 29, 2003

Introduction to the Bureau's Scanning Electron Microscope

Dr. Robert M. Reed


The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) at the Bureau of Economic Geology is an under-utilized resource. Our SEM is fairly new and has a number of capabilities not common to earlier models. One purpose of this talk is to make potential users aware of the capabilities of this instrument. Another purpose is to show some of the ways in which these capabilities have been expanded by, and integrated into, on-going research.

In addition to standard SEM (secondary electron) imaging this SEM supports: electron dispersive spectrography (EDS) as both point analyses and area maps; back-scattered electron imaging; and photomultiplier-enhanced cathodoluminescence (CL) imaging. Digital imaging techniques allow combinations of image types into composite images which convey information not present in any single image type.

The Jackson School of Geosciences supports one of the foremost research programs into geoscience applications of SEM-based CL imaging. JSG researchers have made significant contributions to developing techniques for the use of color filters to transform panchromatic gray-scale SEM-CL images into color CL images. Methodology for use of SEM-CL on carbonate rocks was developed here at the BEG. These techniques have contributed to on-going research on microfracture orientation, fracture-scaling analysis, macrofracture development, and the interaction of fracturing and diagenesis.

In addition to research, on-going efforts include development of an Earth-Science-themed demonstration of SEM capabilities for outreach purposes.