Cross-section Analysis: Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)

Another microscopy method is scanning electron microscopy (SEM), which uses a focused electron beam to scan the surface of the sample and create an image based on the sample's interaction with the electron beam. The SEM image is produced by back-scattered electrons (BSE) reflected from the sample. High atomic weight elements are more efficient at reflecting the electrons and therefore appear more intense in BSE images. This gives analysts a general idea of not just the density of the materials present, but also their distribution within the sample. In the example shown here, the bright white of the BSE image likely corresponds to lead-based materials or pigments.

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