FE-SEM Laboratory

FE-SEM InstrumentationThe FE-SEM laboratory in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering serves students and faculty within the department as well as the broader research community at CSM and the Front Range region. The laboratory provides imaging and analytical services.

Users at all levels of experience are welcome. The FE-SEM forms an integral part of our undergraduate education in petrology and mineralogy and can be accessed by undergraduate students during scheduled class and laboratory activities or as part of their supervised research. The instrument is widely used by graduate students in economic geology, petroleum geology, geological engineering, and hydrogeology. Diverse research is conducted by CSM faculty members. The FE-SEM laboratory also serves the research needs of external users, including government agencies, museums, and private businesses.

The laboratory was established in September 2015 as a result of a partnership agreement between TESCAN and the Colorado School of Mines. Major donors who contributed to the establishment of the laboratory included Apache Corporation, Tim Bartshe, Marshall and Jane Crouch, Hugh and Michelle Harvey, John and Erica Lockridge, and Jim Weber.


Department of Geology and Geological Engineering
Colorado School of Mines
1516 Illinois Street
Golden, CO 80401

Dr. Katharina Pfaff
Fax: 303-273-3859

Dr. Thomas Monecke
Fax: 303-273-3859


The laboratory is equipped with a TESCAN MIRA3 LMH Schottky field emission-scanning electron microscope. The instrument provides topographical and elemental information at magnifications of 10x to over 300,000x at a spatial resolution down to the nanometer scale. Important specification details are given in the table below.

 Internal size of chamber:  230 mm
 Width of door:  148 mm
 Maximum specimen height:  81 mm
 Stage:  Compucentric, 5-axis fully motorized
 Resolution of SE detector:  1.2 nm at 30 kV and 2.5 nm at 3 kV
 Resolution of In-Beam SE detector:  1 nm at 30 kV;
 Chamber vacuum:  <9×10-3 Pa
 Gun vacuum:  <3×10-7 Pa
 Field of view:  6.4 mm at working distance of 10 mm (Easy Mode training level)
 Electron gun:  High-brightness Schottky emitter
 Acceleration voltage:  200 V to 30 kV (20 kV in Easy Mode training level)
 Probe current:  2 pA to 200 nA

FE-SEM_Chamber ViewBSE detector

The FE-SEM features a TESCAN motorized retractable annular, single-crystal YAG backscatter electron detector. The full functionality of the BSE detector is available to user at the Easy Mode training level. At this level, users are able to acquire high-resolution images at a working distance of 10 mm with an acceleration voltage of 20 kV. The image below shows a view of the sample chamber. The retractable BSE detector in operating position is located immediately below the pole piece of the FE-SEM. The EDS detector can be seen in the left behind the pole piece.

Bruker XFlashEDS detector

The FE-SEM is equipped with a Bruker XFlash® 6/30 silicon drift detector for energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS). The full functionality of the EDS system is available to users at the Easy Mode training level. The table below lists some of the key specifications.

Active area:  30 mm2
 Silicon thickness:  0.45 mm
 Window material:  Super-light element window
 Collimator:  Multi-layer, 6.0 mm aperture
 Radiation entry:  Axial
 Elevation angle:  30°
 Working distance:  10 mm

In-beam SE detector

The instrument also has a TESCAN In-BeamTM in-lens secondary electron detector. This detector is not available to users at the Easy Mode training level.

Policies and Manuals

Sign-up and Billing Policy

After users have been authorized to operate the instrument, users will be granted access to the online calendar to schedule time on the instrument. Users at the Easy Mode training level can only sign-up during prime time hours, which are 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday. Certain prime time slots are reserved for teaching and instrument development work and cannot be booked using the online calendar. Users are strongly encouraged to sign-up only for the amount of instrument time required. Users may reserve time only for themselves and are not allowed to turn-over time slots to other users without permission.

Reserved time will be forfeited if a user does not begin within 10 minutes of the scheduled start time. If users cancel a reservation less than 24 hours prior to a scheduled start time or do not use reserved time, they will be charged for a minimum of one hour of instrument time. Billing is performed in 30 min increments and commences at the reserved starting time. When reserving time, users should leave 30 min between the end of the previous session and the start of their own session to allow sufficent time to get ready (mounting of samples etc.).

Training Level Policy

Based on the level of experience in electron microscopy and familiarity with the instrument and laboratory-specific procedures, users are given access to the software of the FE-SEM at different training levels. Most users of the laboratory facility have access privilages at the Easy Mode training level, which provides full functionality of the instrument at a fixed working distance of 10 mm and an acceleration voltage of 20 kV. Training of new users is currently only provided at the Easy Mode training level.

To minimize the risk of a collision between the sample/stage with the detectors, only users with significant experience are given full software access to all five motions of the motorized sample stage (i.e., z-axis and stage tilting). Similarly, usage of the BSE and in-beam SE detectors at working distances below 10 mm is restricted to a limited number of users only. Users will be granted higher access privileges on a case by case basis.

Download the presentation given to new users at the Easy Training level


The laboratory uses fixed hourly pricing for scan time on the instrument. Per-hour scanning charges are based on a two-tier structure.

Sample Preparation Price
Carbon coating $10 per coating cycle
Scanning Charges Price
Research rate* $35/hr of beam time
Commercial rate $200/hr of beam time
Other Rates for Commercial Clients Price 
Technical Assistance $75/hr (faculty) or $45/hr (research support)
Sample preparation and reporting $75/hr
Facilities and usage fee** 8.5% of invoice sub-total

*The research rate only applies to academic research projects supported by Mines and accredited universities. Please contact the laboratory to see if your project qualifies for the research rate.

**This fee is charged to all non-Mines projects. Research projects endorsed and sponsored by Mines are exempt from this fee.