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Juniata Focuses on Electron Microscope Purchase through Grant

(Posted August 19, 2003)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College and a team of faculty from the college?s science departments have received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to purchase an Analytical Scanning Electron Microscope.

?This microscope will enable us to capture exquisitely detailed images of the surface features of materials ranging from rock to ceramics to insects,? explains Larry Mutti, professor of geology at Juniata and lead principal investigator for the grant. ?For instance, a geologist can use this instrument to examine microscopic fossils, or an entomologist may use it to examine the mouth parts of a tick.?

In addition to its formidable magnification powers, the new electron microscope, called an SEM by scientists, will be able to give a detailed chemical analysis of the surface of whatever specimen is being observed.
?The microscope focuses an electron beam on the specimen, and the X-ray energy that is fluoresced back from the surface of the material carries a unique ?signature? that enables us to quickly identify and quantify each component of the material,? Mutti explains.

The delicate microscope, which is part of a workstation about the size of an office desk, will be housed on the lower floor of the von Liebig Center for Science on the Juniata campus, where the college?s transmission electron microscope is located.

Mutti says that at least eight academic departments will share use of the equipment for a variety of research and instructional projects. At least a dozen Juniata faculty will regularly use the electron microscope for research or instruction.

--Geologists will examine microscopic fossils to determine detailed correlations between layers of rock in Pennsylvania. Other research includes investigations to determine details of mineral chemistry in rocks to determine the paleotemperatures and pressures the rocks experienced as they formed. ?It will help us to unravel tectonic history,? Mutti says.

--Chemists will use the equipment to determine the chemical composition of synthetic compounds. The Juniata course Chemistry of Art, for example, will use the microscope to examine the age and chemical composition of pigments used in works of art.

--Environmental scientists may examine specimens of macroinvertebrates, which are key indicators of water quality in streams or lakes.

--Biologists will use the equipment to observe genetic development in larval embryos.
In addition the microscope also will be used as a teaching tool in biology, chemistry, physics and geology courses.

In addition the SEM can be used by art instructors to examine surfaces of ceramics and details of the glaze chemistry. The instrument can be used by anthropologists to determine wear patterns on tools and other artifacts.

?This is a device that will allow Juniata to take research to the next level, particularly for our undergraduate researchers,? Mutti says. ?This equipment will make us competitive with the best colleges and universities in terms of our microanalytical capability.?



Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.