scanning electron microscope - SEM

The scanning electron microscope-SEM is a precision instrument that produces images of a sample using a high-energy electron beam. These electrons interact with the sample and generate various signals that are collected by special detectors, which provide information about the morphology, structure, and composition of the sample. In the laboratory of the Institute of Stratigraphy Research Project-IIES at the University of Caldas, we have an FEI QUANTA 250 equipment, which can achieve magnifications of up to 1,000,000X, with resolutions ranging from 3-10 nanometers.

One of the advantages of the FEI-QUANTA 250 is that it has environmental system technology (Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope-ESEM) which allows the observation of non-conductive or hydrated samples without the need for special preparation, such as emulsions, gels, foams, and others that may contain water, oils, or any volatile substance. With this microscope, any type of sample can be observed using its three modes of operation: 1) high vacuum (HV), 2) low vacuum (LV), and 3) environmental.

SEM Detectors Secondary Electron Image (SEI): Allows obtaining high-resolution and high-contrast images, providing details of the morphology and topography of the sample. This makes it possible to identify features such as grain size and shape, film thickness, corrosion state, microscopic defects, among others.

Backscattered Electron Image (BEI): This detector enables obtaining images of surface composition and topography. These electrons mostly originate from the incident beam that bounces off the material after various interactions.

Energy Dispersive Spectrometer (EDS): Using this technique, all chemical elements with atomic numbers greater than 4 can be detected qualitatively and semi-quantitatively.

Application Areas The applications of the scanning electron microscope are highly diverse and encompass fields such as geology, biology, medicine, archaeology, materials science, electronics, dentistry, petrochemistry, art, quality control, etc.

The Scanning Electron Microscopy Laboratory at the University of Caldas offers the following services:

1. Micrograph acquisition (three-dimensional and high-resolution images) in both conductive and non-conductive samples.

2. Qualitative and semi-quantitative elemental chemical analysis at points of interest, profiles, or maps.

Service Hours:

The scanning electron microscope service is available Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

Service Protocol:

Users must first approach the laboratory manager and reserve their spot (subject to equipment availability and on a first-come, first-served basis). Reservations can be made by phone at (+576) 8781500 ext. 12682, in person at the laboratory, or via email at and The maximum continuous service time is 3 hours. To ensure efficient operation, unless in special cases, please refrain from reserving more than 2 sessions per week.

During the reservation, users must provide their full name, telephone number, and email address.

For internal University of Caldas users (see details below for pricing analysis): Professors must present approval from the research director indicating that the samples are part of a University of Caldas research project. If the samples are part of a degree project, they must have the approval of the department director or thesis supervisor.

To use the scanning electron microscope analysis, users must deposit the corresponding payment for the service hours to be used, depending on the samples and quantity for analysis (if coating is required). The cost of the service must be deposited into savings account number 084500007467 at Davivienda bank, including the code 00HD190 under the name of UNIVERSIDAD DE CALDAS. The person must attach a copy of the deposit slip or send a photo of the payment receipt to or attach it to the corresponding form. (Example deposit slip format)

Reservations can be canceled at any time by notifying the laboratory manager at least 24 hours in advance to accommodate another user. Failure to give prior notice will result in a charge for the session.

The session will start at the agreed-upon time with the laboratory technician, regardless of whether the user arrives late.

The user is responsible for directing the session, while the operator of the scanning electron microscope manipulates and sets the appropriate conditions and variables for obtaining images, analysis, and results, which are useful for the user’s study of the sample.

Samples must be prepared by the user ready for observation. If the user wishes to obtain images and analysis in high vacuum, depending on the type of sample, they must be dry solids or in the final dehydration phase, with fixation and post-fixation treatments already performed. Metal coating (depending on the analysis) is done using the equipment available in the laboratory. The microscope can operate in low vacuum and environmental modes, allowing the analysis of non-conductive samples without the need for coating and the analysis of hydrated samples by working in a gaseous environment (water vapor) with variable pressure. Chemical analysis using EDS in these vacuum modes is less precise.

The maximum number of individuals allowed in the laboratory for sample analysis is 4, including the microscope operator.

Micrographs and results of chemical and/or cathodoluminescence analysis will be provided on a blank CD/DVD provided by the user. Under no circumstances are USB drives or other external media accepted, apart from those mentioned.

If you require an invoice, please make the request but do not deposit the payment until the university generates it.

Note: If you agree to the terms of our service, please complete the corresponding form provided below


Micrograph acquisition with chemical analysis (EDS). Price per hour.

Internal user


External user


Universidad de Caldas sede principal

Instituto de investigaciones en Estratigrafía – IIES:-Edificio Orlando Sierra, Bloque B, 2do piso

Horario de atención: lunes a viernes de 8:00 am a 6:00 pm

Teléfono: (+576) 8781500 Ext. 12643 /

E-mail :
Universidad de Caldas: Calle 65 Nº 26 – 10 

Tel (+576) 8781500 Fax (+576) 8781501

Apartado aéreo 275 / Manizales – Colombia

Línea gratuita : 01-8000-512120  /  e-mail: – Sitio web: –