SCANNING VOL. 24, 92–100 (2002)
Received: February 16, 2001
Accepted with revision: August 7, 2001
© FAMS, Inc.

Automated Analysis of Submicron Particles by Computer-Controlled Scanning Electron Microscopy

P. Poelt, M. Schmied, I. Obernberger,* T. Brunner,* J. Dahl*

Research Institute for Electron Microscopy, Graz University of Technology; *Institute of Chemical Engineering Fundamentals and Plant Engineering, Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria

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Summary: Automated analysis of submicron particles by computer-controlled scanning electron microscopy is generally possible. The minimum diameter of the detectable particles is dependent on the mean atomic number of the particles and the operating parameters of the scanning microscope. The main limitation with regard to particle size is set by the quality of the particle detection system, which generally is the backscatter electron detector. The accuracy of the results of the x-ray analyses is very often strongly affected by specimen damage, omnipresent especially for environmental particles even at low electron energies and probe currents. With the exception for light elements, the detection limit is approximately 1 wt%. Device-related limitations to automated analysis may be specimen drift and an unreliable autofocus function.

Key words: scanning electron microscope, automated particle analysis, microanalysis, radiation damage, environmental particles, fly ash, aerosols

PACS: 61.16.Bg, 61.80.-x, 92.60.Mt, 06.30.Bp

This work is sponsored by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) (contract nr. P13527 – TEC).

Address for reprints:
Peter Poelt
Research Institute for Electron Microscopy
Graz University of Technology
Steyrerg. 17
A-8010 Graz, Austria