Electron microscope views the mini to the maximum

The average microscope, or optical microscope, can only maximise the view of an object by 10,000. Whilst the optical microscope has led to some great discoveries in science, it has nothing on the electron microscope, which can amplify the view of its subject by 100,000 per cent.

For one week only two electron microscopes (each costing a cool $70,000 each) will be based at the Naracoorte High School. Each class will have the opportunity to gaze at things such as plants, minerals, and insects in high definition.

There will also be fun in other subjects, with drama students looking up stage makeup in close up, and photography students looking at the nitty gritty of paper.

Naracoorte High School is the only country high school to feature the electron microscopes. Because the Wrattonbully Partnership are sponsoring the microscopes, students from Naracoorte Primary School, Naracoorte South Primary School, the Independent Learning Centre and Padthaway Primary School will also have the opportunity to use it.

“We’re basically exposing all of our classes to this (the microscope) as much as we can,” said Naracoorte High’s Science Coordinator John Agnew. 

Mr Agnew and the other staff were given a tutorial on how to use the microscope last weekend when they went down to Mount Gambier for the ‘Science Alive’ event. 

“We saw the potential of it,” said Mr Agnew about getting the cutting edge bit of technology in the classroom.

“We’re encouraging students to bring in their own samples (of things to view) but we also have samples on hand. There’s the opportunity to see so many things – to see the structure of worlds.”

Naracoorte High will be using two Tabletop Microscopes TM4000s, which are classified as scanning electron microscopes.

The scanning electron microscope works by shooting an electron beam onto an object, which uses a combination of heat, X-ray and additional ‘scattered’ and secondary electrons to project an image onto a screen. The image can then be adjusted for higher resolution.

An optical microscope can only create a 3D image with lightwaves, but the electron microscope can zoom in to see even the smallest elements of an object’s topography.

Under the electron microscope, the hairs near a spider’s fangs that are almost invisible to a human eye can appear as big as ferns. On an ant, the whiskers of their antennae are suddenly as clear as day.

In addition to Mr Agnew, science laboratory manager Tamara Zerk provided information about the electron microscope, as did Irene Wilcocks.