Three Dimensional Imaging of Light Metals Using Serial Block Face Scanning Electron Microscopy (SBFSEM)


Article Preview

Ultramicrotomy is used extensively as a specimen preparation method for transmission electron microscopy (TEM) in the biological and polymer fields, where relatively soft materials are sectioned to generate electron transparent specimens. Additionally, in corrosion control studies of light metals, e.g. aluminium and magnesium and their alloys, ultramictrotomy has been progressed at Manchester for characterisation of the metallic materials and their filming behaviour as well as the propagation of corrosion into the material interior at selected sites. The benefits of ultramicrotomy include the ability to generate uniform thicknesses of multiphase specimens with relatively large observation areas that include, for example, randomly distributed intermetallic particles in the alloy. However, mechanical sectioning with a diamond knife generates artefacts that include chattering and local damage; localised corrosion of the thin slices may also result from their residence on a water bath at the rear of the knife prior to collection for TEM study. Recently, ultramicrotomy has also been utilised to assist high resolution imaging in the scanning electron microscope (SEM); the generation of relatively flat specimens removes roughness effects from the secondary electron signal and improves the backscattered electron yield due to removal of an oxidised or carbon contaminated surface. The combination of ultramicrotomy and low voltage scanning electron microscopy has also enabled generation of high resolution, three dimensional images using sectioning and subsequent imaging of the fresh surface by SEM. However, importantly, recent instrumental developments, i.e. the GATAN 3View System, now enable ultramicrotomy to be performed in-SEM. Consequently, rapid in-SEM sectioning and imaging can now be undertaken with ready reconstruction of electron tomographs for light metallic materials. Here, the application of the Gatan 3View system in a Quanta 250 FEG-ESEM is presented, with consideration of artefacts introduced by the electron beam for serial block face sectioning imaging of light alloys.



Edited by:

Ian Stone, Brian McKay and Zhongyun Fan




T. Hashimoto et al., "Three Dimensional Imaging of Light Metals Using Serial Block Face Scanning Electron Microscopy (SBFSEM)", Materials Science Forum, Vol. 765, pp. 501-505, 2013

Online since:

July 2013




[1] D.C. Pease, R.F. Baker, Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 67 (1948) 470-474.

[2] G.E. Thompson, R.C. Furneaux, G.C. Wood, J.A. Richardson, J.S. Goode, Nature 272 (1978) 433-435.

[3] J.C. Jesior, J. Ultrastruc. Mol. Struct. 95 (1986) 210-217.

[4] A. Al-Amoudi, J. Dubochet, H. Gnaegi, W. Luthi, D. Studer, J. Microsc. 212 (2003) 26-33.

[5] A. Al-Amoudi, D. Studer, J. Dubochet, J. Struct. Bio. 150 (2005) 109-121.

[6] G.T. Herman, Fundamentals of computerised tomography, in: Image Reconstruction From Projection, second ed., Springer, (2009).

[7] W. Denk, H. Horstmann, PLOS Biology 2 (2004) 1900-(1909).

[8] T. Hashimoto, X. Zhou, C. Luo, K. Kawano, G.E. Thompson, A.E. Hughes, P. Skeldon, P.J. Withers, T.J. Marrow, A.H. Sherry, Scripta Mater. 63 (2010) 835-838.


[9] G.E. Thompson, T. Hashimoto, X.L. Zhong, M. Curioni, X. Zhou, P. Skeldon, P.J. Withers, Aluminium Surface Science and Technology (ASSTVI), Sorrento, Italy, (2012).

[10] G.E. Lloyd, Mineralogical Magazine 51 (1987) 3-19.

[11] K. Kanaya, H. Kawakatsu, J. Phys. Appl. Phys. 5 (1972) 1727.

[12] K. Kanaya, S. Okayama, J. Phys. Appl. Phys. 5 (1972) 43.