CIRP Encyclopedia of Production Engineering

2019 Edition
| Editors: Sami Chatti, Luc Laperrière, Gunther Reinhart, Tullio Tolio

Scanning Electron Microscope

  • Robert SchmittEmail author
Reference work entry



A scanning electron microscope (SEM) is an instrument for imaging topography and for obtaining material information of conductive specimen using a focused beam of high-energy electrons. The electron beam is deflected in a magnetic field and performs a scanning movement in a raster pattern to capture the specimens’ surface. For imaging purposes interaction phenomena of the electron beam with the specimen like emission of secondary electrons (SE) or backscattered electrons (BSE) are detected and converted to grey values. A frequency analysis of X-rays reveals information about the present material. Nonconductive surfaces have to be covered with a conductive layer.

Theory and Application

Historical Background

The invention of the SEM principle cannot be pinpointed to only one contributor in history. However, it was the German scientist Max Knoll who built the first “scanning microscope” in 1935 (Bogner et al. 2007; McMullan 1993). Manfred...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Amelinckx S, van Dyck D, van Landuyt J, van Tendeloo G (1997) Electron microscopy: principles and fundamentals. VHC, WeinheimCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bogner A, Jouneau PH, Thollet G, Basset D, Gauthier C (2007) A history of scanning electron microscopy developments: towards “wet-STEM” imaging. Micron 38:390–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Egerton RF (2005) Physical principles of electron microscopy: an introduction to TEM, SEM, and AEM. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. FEI Company (2016) An introduction to electron microscopy. Retrieved from Accessed 20 Jan 2016
  5. Goldstein J (2003) Scanning electron microscopy and x-ray microanalysis. Kluwer Academic/Plenum, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hafner B (2007) Scanning electron microscopy primer. Retrieved from Accessed 20 Jan 2016
  7. Hansen HN, Carneiro K, Haitjema H, De Chiffre L (2006) Dimensional micro and nano metrology. CIRP Ann Manuf Technol 55(2):721–743CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. McMullan D (1993) Scanning electron microscopy 1928–1965. Retrieved from Accessed 20 Jan 2016
  9. Oatley CW (1982) The early history of the scanning electron microscope. J Appl Phys 53(2):R1–R13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Reimer L (1998) Scanning electron microscopy: physics of image formation and microanalysis. Springer, Berlin/HeidelbergCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Smith KCA (1997) Charles Oatley: a pioneer of the SCM. Retrieved from∼bcb/cwo1.htm. Accessed 20 Jan 2016
  12. von Ardenne M (1938) Das Elektronen-Rastermikroskop [the scanning electron microscope]. Z Phys 109(9–10):553–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Zworykin VA, Hillier J, Snyder RL (1942) A scanning electron microscope. ASTM Bull 117:15–23Google Scholar

Copyright information

© CIRP 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL)RWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Robert Schmitt
    • 1
  1. 1.Chair of Metrology and Quality ManagementLaboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering WZL of the RWTH, Aachen UniversityAachenGermany