Sample Preparation for the Transmission Electron Microscope

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Dr. Darryl Butt


The work of preparing samples for a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) can be complicated. In order to demystify the skill of preparing samples for the TEM, an illustrated guide is presented to serve as a learning tool to the new student in the laboratory. This guide will compare processing techniques for three different materials used in the Advanced Materials Laboratory: Tungsten, Lanthanum Calcium Ferrite and Graphite. A general outline is enhanced with material specific procedures to help reinforce the major concepts, identify common mistakes, and highlight the similarities among each material. Examples demonstrate the goals for each section of the procedure. Understanding the characteristics of each material directs the approach used to prepare the TEM sample. Generally, the harder the material is (Tungsten in this example) the more aggressive the initial steps of the procedure are. For the hardest of materials, each step of the procedure will take more time even starting with a higher degree of abrasive instruments, however, the procedure will regress into common methods shared by all materials. Preparing samples for the TEM can be a daunting task for any novice. Providing a detailed “how to” guide will accelerate the transition of the timid trainee to knowledgeable expert, saving many hours in preparation.

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