The scanning electron microscope (SEM) is an instrument capable of magnifying objects up to 100,000x – far greater than is possible with the optical microscope.
The SEM uses a focused beam of electrons to scan the surface of a sample, enabling scientists to study its texture and shape in great detail. The electrons which are scattered from the surface are collected in a detector which generates an image of the sample that has a three-dimensional quality.
Because the image is not the product of visible light, there is no colour in an SEM image.
It is common for SEM instruments to have analytical devices attached to them. The most powerful of these for paint analysis is an energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDX).