Kurt's wonders of optical and
I am a licensed, professional geologist (PG005175) and economic geology professor who researches how metallic mineral deposits form within the Earth. In addition to mapping geology in the field, I analyze samples in the lab using a variety of microscopes. I also manage several labs at Kutztown University:
In the course of research with my students and training/guiding other lab users, I see some wonderful things. With this website, I hope to share with you some of the microscopic wonders of the world that I find using the microscopes in labs that I manage.
Just as there are billions of distant galaxies in which gazillions of things are happening beyond our awareness right now, so are there microcosmic worlds too small for our naked eyes to perceive, but in which we are intimately immersed and seamlessly connected.
flattering profile photo (like a photo in an advertisement - real-life looks a little different :-) )
Kurt Friehauf, PG, PhD
In addition to teaching classes, managing microscopy labs, and writing lots of lengthy reports for the university that I suspect are never read before getting filed in never-retrieved digital archives, I love doing geological research with students and professionals. Please click here to read about my research.
Scanning Electron Microscope image of an ant's head - one of the first images taken in Kutztown University's Fred and Martha Hafer Scanning Electron Microscope lab
Scanning Electron Microscope Lab (SEM)
Fred and Martha Hafer Scanning Electron Microscope lab is one of the flagship facilities at the university. We have a Zeiss Gemini 300 FE-SEM mounted with an Oxford Ultim Max 100 EDS. In the electron microscope world, these are exceptionally nice instruments - among the best in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The lab is used almost entirely by Kutztown University undergraduate college students. My job is maintain the lab, to train every person, and to mentor/help users get good data for their research. It's like a second job in addition to my regular job of teaching geology classes. It's a lot of work, but it's rewarding to help people achieve their goals.
Please click here to see examples of great images taken by students in my SEM class at Kutztown University.
Scanning Electron Microscope Lab Details (please click to expand)
The scanning electron microscope (SEM) is a very powerful tool for observing things as small as a few nanometers and for chemically analyzing things only 1 micrometer in size. Our SEM is a Field Emission electron microscope - essentially a Ferrari among SEMs (or maybe a Mercedes-Benz or Porsche since it's German-built?)
The Kutztown University SEM lab that I manage at Kutztown University hosts a Zeiss Gemini 300 FE-SEM with an Oxford Ultim Max 100 EDS.
We have many ways of seeing things using the SEM. Please click here to see an overview of the system.
The secondary electron detectors (SE) give us a view of the shapes on the surface of samples. Please click here to see examples of microscopic creatures and crystals viewed with the SE detector. Please click here to see images students in my Practical Scanning Electron Microscopy class took using the FE-SEM.
The variable pressure detector (VPSE) records how some samples glow visible light when touched by the electron beam (and also shows us the surface detail for special samples). Please click here to see how some crystals glow and see examples of tricky samples imaged using the VPSE detector.
The backscatter electron detectors (BSD) enable us to distinguish between things with different chemical compositions. Please click here to see beautiful intergrowths of crystals observed using the BSD detector.
The energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS) analyzes the precise chemical composition of any point on the sample and maps out chemical variations across the surface. Please click here to see how the EDS x-ray detector teaches us about the chemistry of microscopic surfaces.
The transmitted electron detector (STEM) is useful for studying organelles inside cells, viruses, and nanoparticles. Please click here to see examples of images taken with our STEM detector.
Please click here to see how the different detectors compare in showing us different things about the same sample.
Polarized petrographic microscope image of molybdenum ore from Henan, China (cross-polarized light)
Petrographic Microscope Lab
Unlike most samples in biology, the crystalline materials we study in geology and chemistry are made of atoms arranged in a very repetitive manner, which gives crystals different properties along different dimensions. For example, a crystal can be blue along its long axis, and yellow along a short axis. We use polarized light microscopes to analyzes properties of crystals alone each axis individually, and we observe how the light interacts with multiple axes at the same time.
Please click here to see imagery from the petrographic microscopy lab.
Polarized-light Petrographic Microscope Lab Details (please click to expand)
The polarized-light petrographic microscopes I manage at Kutztown University are an old Nikon E600Pol with a Nikon Digital Sight DS-10 camera (6k = 24 megapixels), and a dozen Zeiss AxioLab 5 Pol scopes with Zeiss AxioCam 208 cameras (4k = 8 megapixels).
Polarized light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy each teach us different things about the sample, so we study samples using both methods - a practice called correlative microscopy.
Please click here to see imagery from the petrographic microscopy lab.
Binocular microscope image of crystallized slag from the Lyon Mountain historic iron mining region in northern New York
Binocular Microscope Imagery
Binocular microscopes are the equivalent of very powerful magnifying glasses. Bini = two and oculus = eyes looking down two tubes with magnifying lenses. Binoc scopes like these are used mostly for helping us see what we're doing when mounting tiny samples for other microscopes or for seeing natural colors on the surfaces of tiny things.
The Kutztown University labs I manage use Zeiss Stemi 508 binocular microscopes with Zeiss AxioCam 208 cameras (4k = 8 megapixels).
Please click here to see some imagery captured with binocular microscopes.
Purple glow of ionized argon and vaporized gold atoms forming a gentle metallic snowfall on a sample in the metal sputtering coater
The geochemistry lab was originally just for analyzing the chemical properties of rocks and soils. When we got the electron microscope, we needed a place to prepare samples, so like most things with this job, the responsibilities expanded.
Equipped with optical microscopes, high-tech SEM preparation instruments, polishing equipment, and a fume hood for mixing and reacting chemicals, this room is a busy place.
Geochemistry Lab Details (please click to expand)
In addition to managing a bunch of microscopes, there are some other fascinating instruments in my labs:
Metal sputtering and carbon evaporating sample coater - a device that deposits a 5-20 nanometer thick layer of gold or graphene on top of samples to prepare them for scanning electron microscopy (Quorum Q150R ES plus)
Please click here to learn about the coater.
Critical Point Drier - A very clever way to dry the water out of biological specimens without deforming the sample (Tousimis® Autosamdri®-815, Series A)
Please click here to see an explanation of critical point drying.
pXRF - portable X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer - a hand-held ray gun that shoots x-rays at a sample, then analyzes the way the sample glows to determine the chemical composition of the sample (Bruker Tracer IV)
Please click here to learn about the XRF.
Automet polishing wheel - Nothing fancier than a spinning flat wheel on which we mount fine-grained sandpaper or cloth with micro-alumina polishing powder, but this is essential to good EDS analysis of samples using the SEM.
Fluid Inclusion Stage and Microscope - a special microscope that has a tiny chamber for watching bubbles inside crystals as we heat or freeze the crystals to determine the temperature of crystal formation and the saltiness of the water that formed the crystal.
Rock-cutting saws in my dirty lab (on a pretty clean day!)
My dirty lab
Some scientists work in Clean Rooms - special labs with lots of precautions and technologies that guard against even single grains of dust. Clean rooms are where new computer chip materials are invented and scientists working in them wear special suits with booties so they don't track dirt in.
My other lab management responsibility is a rock cutting lab - the opposite of a clean room. Although it's dusty and can smell of lapidary oil, it's still a place where discoveries are made, which suits me fine!
Diamond-bladed rock saws are just circular metal blades that wear their way through rocks like a continuous file, but they're an important tool for sample preparation and exploring the insides of rocks!
Please click here to see photos of the rock cutting lab.