What could change everything is the next-generation SEM microscope technology that has come on to the market and which offers considerably improved resolution. These new techniques, with their automated processing, are a big step forward – but their potential is being limited by today’s last-generation resin technology.
The problem is that current resins – into which cellular systems are embedded – are prone to electron beam damage, which ultimately leads to images being lost.
Resins become damaged because of the chain scission process, which is commonly seen with materials such as PMMA. Here the atoms in the resin are removed by the diamond knife. Because of this, the inspection field cannot be imaged. Unfortunately, the process is accumulative as the electrons will always penetrate the resin.
So far, the new SEM microscopes have utilised low contrasting epoxy and acrylic resins such as Araldite and LR white but these have produced relatively low resolution images because of the scission process and inherent electron charging. In short, resin technology is lagging behind microscope technology and acting as a brake.