A frequently asked question is: with the versatility of today’s SEMs, is there any reason to add a conductive coating to samples for electron microscopy imaging? If yes, what should we coat it with?
It’s well documented why coatings are required, but what coating to use for each application is not.
The choice of method, target material and coating thickness varies depending on the sample and the specific information that we want to obtain from it.
Sample preparation also requires an understanding of the nature of the sample. i.e. if it’s suitable for vacuum (won’t boil), if it’s in a solid-state, or if it needs any other preparation before coating it, such as dehydration by critical point drying or freeze-drying.
Physical and chemical differences of the specimen surface could also have a tremendous influence on the coating film quality, as condensation might be preferred for specific sample features, which will give an unwanted ‘decoration’ effect.
Here we present the reasons for coating and ways of delivering the optimum performance during EM imaging for typical applications.
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