A scanning electron microscope (SEM) is a type of electron microscope that produces images of a sample by scanning it with a focused beam of electrons.
The electrons interact with atoms in the sample, producing various signals that can be detected and that contain information about the sample’s surface topography and composition. The electron beam is generally scanned in a raster scan pattern, and the beam’s position is combined with the detected signal to produce an image. SEM can achieve resolution better than 1 nanometer. Specimens can be observed in high vacuum, in low vacuum, in wet conditions (in environmental SEM), and at a wide range of cryogenic or elevated temperatures.