The environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM™) and variable pressure electron microscope (VPSEM) have become accepted tools in the contemporary electron microscopy facility. Their flexibility and their ability to image almost any sample with little, and often no, specimen preparation has proved so attractive that each manufacturer of scanning electron microscopes now markets a low vacuum model.
The University of Michigan Electron Microbeam Analysis Laboratory (EMAL) operates two variable pressure instruments, an ElectroScan E3 ESEM and a Hitachi S3200N VPSEM. The E3 ESEM was acquired in the early 1990s with funding from the Amoco Foundation and it has been used to examine an extremely wide variety of different materials. Since EMAL serves the entire university community, and offers support to neighboring institutions and local industry, the types of materials examined span a wide range. There are users from Materials Science & Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Biology, Biophysics, Pharmacy and Pharmacology.