There are a lot of innocuous objects that are dotted around every house. Scientists, using the world’s most expensive kind of microscope, a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), have revealed the hidden secrets of them – and it doesn’t always make for comfortable viewing. The images are of items found in various domestic settings, from the bathroom to the kitchen.
SEMs work by bombarding the object with electrons and then build extreme close-ups of the image using a computer and transmission electro microscopes. The images are produced in monochrome and then hand-tinted to enrich their detail.
SEMs are far more powerful than regular light microscopes that can only magnify by up to 1,000 times. For this reason the electron microscope, which can magnify up to a million times, is popular with scientists and artists alike.
Retired scientific photographer Steve Gschmeissner is grateful that he still has access to an SEM – their high price tag makes them unaffordable to all but the most wealthy enthusiast. “For anyone involved in microscopy the SEM is the ultimate boy’s toy,” said Steve Gschmeissner.
“Costing between $250,000 and $800,000, there are only a handful of people around the world who have access to this for fun. To be able to use equipment like this when I am retired is a dream come true. The SEM picks up basically where the normal light microscope finishes.”
He continued: “And it takes it so much further by magnifying the specimen by up to a million times. Also different to a regular microscope is the fact the SEM builds a 3D image giving you a unique view.”