Choosing the Right Desktop SEM for Your Research Needs

Two scientists analysing data on a computer monitor in a high-tech laboratory, reflecting on the process of selecting the right desktop Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) for research purposes

Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEMs) are pivotal instruments across various research disciplines, enabling experts to unravel minute details on specimens’ surfaces or subsurface regions. Recognised for their precision, SEMs come in two primary forms: traditional floor models and the increasingly popular Desktop SEMs. The latter is gaining prominence due to its user-friendly nature, affordability and convenience being a benchtop, not taking up much lab space, positioning it as a preferred choice for a step up from optical or confocal microscopy.

Exploration of Desktop SEM Innovations

Desktop SEMs, characterised by their compactness and simplified operation compared to their larger floor-based counterparts, are typically favoured for high throughput and are more cost-effective. BlueScientific stands out as the authorised distributor for ThermoScientific’s Desktop SEMs across the UK and Ireland, offering a diverse array of models:

#Phenom Pure

This introductory model is designed to facilitate the seamless transition from optical to electron microscopy. The Phenom Pure is renowned for its swift loading and imaging capabilities, the fastest available, enabling swift acquisition of superior-quality images. This is achieved through its intuitive auto-focus and alignment features. Customisation options include a fully integrated EDF (Electron Diffraction Finder) system or a SED (Secondary Electron Detector) for enhanced surface topography imaging.

#Phenom XL

Distinguished by its expansive chamber, the largest available in a desktop SEM, the Phenom XL accommodates larger samples, up to 100mm x 100mm, or up to up to 36 x 12 mm pin stubs. Its automation features streamline operations, significantly reducing the time-to-image to approximately 60 seconds, particularly when employing Python scripting for routine tasks. This model is designed for high-throughput sample processing, minimising the likelihood of user-induced errors and facilitating rapid, detailed imaging. An optional energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) detector is available for added analytical capabilities, enabling comprehensive material analysis without the need for system interchange.

#Phenom ProX

Representing the epitome of sixth-generation desktop SEM technology, the Phenom ProX bridges the divide between traditional SEM analysis and light microscopy. Designed for all levels of expertise, it features an integrated EDS detector, facilitating detailed sample analysis while alleviating the demand for full-sized SEM facilities. The unique design allows for high-resolution imaging at the same working distances required for EDS analysis, eliminating the need for equipment readjustment between analyses.

#Phenom Pharos G2

This model uniquely makes available, the highest resolution, Field Emission Gun FEG-SEMs), in a benchtop., offering a user-friendly, compact alternative. The Pharos G2 stands out for its ability to produce high-resolution, bright images within 30 seconds of sample loading. It supports low-energy imaging for delicate, sensitive, or insulating materials, negating the need for extensive sample preparation or coating. An optional EDS module extends functionality, providing essential elemental insights for comprehensive compositional analysis.

Phenom PurePhenom XLPhenom Pharos GTPhenom ProX
Electron SourceCerium Hexaboride (CeB)CeB6 long-life thermionicCeB6 long-life thermionicCeB6 long-life thermionic
Magnification Range160-175,000tx160-200,000txUp to 2,000,000x150-250,000x
Resolution<15 nm<10 nm2.0 nm (SE), 3 nm (BSE) at 20 kV
10 nm (SE) at 3 kV
<6 nm SED and <8 nm BSD
Vacuum ModesHigh-vacuum mode
Charge-reduction mode via optional low vacuum sample holder
Low, Medium, HighHigh vacuum mode
Medium vacuum mode
Integrated charge reduction mode (low vacuum mode)
High vacuum mode
Charge reduction mode via optional low vacuum sample holder
DetectorBackscattered electron detector (standard)
Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) detector (optional)
Secondary electron detector (optional)
Backscattered electron detector (standard)
Secondary electron detector (optional)
Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) detector (optional)
Backscattered electron detector (standard)
Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) detector (optional)
Secondary electron detector (optional)
Backscattered electron detector (standard)
Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) detector (standard)
Secondary electron detector (optional)
Sample SizeUp to 25mm diameter
 32 mm (optional)
Max. 100 mm x 100 mm (up to 36 x 12 mm pin stubs)
Max. 40 mm (h)
Up to 25mm diameter
32mm (optional)
Up to 25mm diameter
32mm (optional)
Training Time10 minutesLess than 1 hour
Comparison of Phenom models:

With a focus on innovation, ease of use, and comprehensive analytical capabilities, these desktop SEM systems are engineered to meet the diverse needs of modern scientific research. If you would like a demonstration of any of these systems, a quote or have some questions, please contact us.