Authors: D.J. Stokes, E. Baken, B.H. Lich and D.H.W. Hubert
Affilation: FEI Company, Netherlands
Pages: 77 - 80
Keywords: soft matter, biological, STEM, SEM, insulators, uncoated, ESEM, low vacuum, variable pressure
Soft condensed matter and complex fluids are of increasing technological significance. It is therefore crucial that we extend the capabilities of conventional solid state imaging and analytical techniques to include the observation of materials such as polymers, gels, colloidal dispersions and emulsions in their soft and/or liquid states. SEMs that permit the presence of water vapor and other gases in the specimen chamber make it possible to tackle these otherwise challenging specimens, with no need for freezing/drying or an electrically conductive coating. More recently, this technology has been further expanded to allow characterisation of nanostructured soft materials, again in their native state, using a specialised STEM detector, allowing the collection of low voltage transmitted electron signals. This means that we now have the capability to collect high resolution information from the bulk material, in addition to the simultaneous collection of surface-sensitive secondary and backscattered electron signals, whilst also carrying out x-ray microanalysis. These approaches offer tremendous potential for static and in situ dynamic studies of numerous soft nanostructured systems, as will be shown.