Electron Beam Control In A Scanning Electron Microscope

Electron

A few years ago [Ben Krasnow] built a scanning electron microscope from a few parts he had sitting around. He’s done a few overviews of how he built his SEM, but now he’s put up a great video on how to control electrons, focus them into a point, and scan a sample.

The basic idea behind a scanning electron microscope is to shoot electrons down a tube, focus them into a point, and scan a conductive sample and detect the secondary electrons shot off the sample and display them on an oscilloscope. [Ben] is generating electrons with a small tungsten filament at the top of his electron ‘stack’. Being like charged, these electrons naturally fan out, so a good bit of electron optics are required to get a small point.

Focusing is done through a series of pinholes and electrostatic deflectors, much like you’d see in an old oscilloscope CRT. In the video, you can see [Ben] shooting electrons and displaying a Christmas tree graphic  onto a piece of phosphor-coated glass. He has a pretty big scanning area in his SEM, more than enough to look at a few chips, wafers, and whatever other crazy stuff is coming out of [Ben]‘s lab.

Video below, along with the three-year-old overview of the entire microscope.

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Building a CRT and bathing yourself in x-rays

For the Milan design week held last April, [Patrick Stevenson Keating] made a cathode ray tube and exhibited it in a department store.

The glass envelope of [Keating]‘s tube is a very thick hand-blown piece of glass. After coating the inside of the tube with  a phosphorescent lining, [Keating] installed an electrode in a rubber plug and evacuated all the air out of the tube. When 45,000 Volts is applied to the electrode, a brilliant purple glow fills the tube and illuminates the phosphor.

Since the days of our grandfathers, CRTs have usually been made out of thick leaded glass. The reasoning behind this – and why your old computer monitor weighed a ton – is that electron guns can give off a substantial amount of x-rays. This usually isn’t much of a problem for simple devices such as a Crookes tube and monochrome CRTs. Even though [Keating] doesn’t give us any indication of what is being emitted from his tube, we’re fairly confident it’s safe for short-term exposure.

Despite being a one-pixel CRT, we can imagine using the same process to make a few very interesting pieces of hardware. The Magic Eye tube found in a few exceptionally high-end radios and televisions of the 40s, 50s, and 60s could be replicated using the same processes. Alternatively, this CRT could be used as a Williams tube and serve as a few bits of RAM in a homebrew computer.

You can check out the tube in action while on display after the break, along with a very nice video showing off the construction.

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