When we were in school, they always told us we can’t see atoms. If you have an electron microscope, then they were wrong. [AlphaPhoenix] has access to a scanning tunneling electron microscope and he shows us some atoms in a very thin slice of a crystal.
Of course, you aren’t directly imaging the atoms. You are looking at the shadows of the atoms, but still. If you’ve never worked with a SEM or STEM before, there are plenty of little details that are interesting like the sample holders and the vacuum system.
One thing that struck us is that compared to the SEMs we used to use is that computers have, indeed, changed everything. In the 1980s our SEMs looked like someone’s idea of a 25th-century space shuttle with knobs, dials, meters, levers, and even pedals. Now, it looks like a computer with a bunch of monitors.
Even better than the images, we really enjoyed the explanation and macro-scale demonstration of how the microscope works. If you haven’t worked with this technology before, it is amazing and he didn’t even cover things like energy dispersive spectroscopy and other useful techniques.
It isn’t easy building your own electron microscope, but some people do try. And try. You might be better off trying to snag one surplus.