EXTREME CLOSE-UP!!! Get something scanned under an electron microscope for free

By Ed Yong | October 24, 2009 12:44 pm

What would an extreme close-up of your sandwich filling look like? What about your hair? The cluster of dust in the corner of your living room? The grain of pollen stuck to your coat? Scientists, of course, have ways of finding out, using electron microscopes to look at the tiniest of objects in glorious detail.

Now you can do the same for free. A company called ASPEX, who bill themselves as “a leading producer of benchtop SEM (scanning electron microscopes”, is offering readers a chance to send in a sample of anything and see what it looks like in extreme close-up.

To take them up on the offer, download and fill in this form from the ASPEX website and send it (along with the sample you want scanned) to:

ASPEX Corporation

Free Sample Submissions

175 Sheffield Dr.

Delmont, PA 15626

It’ll take them about two weeks to complete the scan. Once they’re finished, they’ll notify you by email and post the images and the report on their website.

It sounds fun – if you take them up on the offer, post what you’ve sent to them here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized

Comments (10)

  1. Jim

    lol, I do this myself with my own TEM and SEM. I’ve tried sampling quite a lot of things, but alas I’m still working on film and my film scanner sucks. When we get the digital upgrade I’m going to start posting things.

  2. AWESOME!!! Now I can get a new view of some butterfly wings on something other than my 40 year old microscope. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Ed Yong

    THIS IS IMPORTANT – I’ve just remembered that ASPEX have informed me that samples will not be returned. Do not send them anything you want back!

  4. Along similar lines, The University of Illinois has a very cool outreach project geared toward school aged kids (public, private and home schooled) called Bugscope. The NSF paid for an environmental scanning electron microscope in return for this amazing outreach project. Students and their teacher sign on from their computer(s) and control the stage in order to see their “bugs”! Anyone in the world can participate! http://bugscope.beckman.illinois.edu/

  5. oops, forgot to mention that students mail their samples to us and we prepare them.

  6. Fun idea… I wonder what their business model is except creating greater exposure for their company?
    In addition to posting images of scanned objects, I think they should also make a list of “inappropriate” objects received!

  7. Ed Yong

    I expect greater exposure is simply the point. Anyone know how much it costs to do a single scan, after you actually own the equipment?
    Also the sole condition was that I stick a link from the words “benchtop SEM”, which presumably will up their search engine rankings.
    I usually steer clear of commercial ventures, but at least this one is fun.

  8. YES. I am sending them a sample of my frog-eyed gecko’s skin. He has overlapping scales, so this should be cool.

  9. Jaban

    If they’re using one of their desktop SEMs, the cost to them looks to be about two minutes of the technician’s time plus the amount of power a coffee maker uses. There are no consumables for many items, though it would depend on what it is you send in.

  10. Kat

    *Insert joke about ex-boyfriend’s penis here*

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