Kurt's wonders of optical and
electron microscopy

About me

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 - not a face that will win any modeling competitions, but he's OK with that

Kurt Friehauf, PG, PhD

Students on log on Mineralogy field trip


In addition to managing several microscopy labs, I teach undergraduate geology classes.  Please click here if you're interested in that side of me.

Geared up for geologic field work in a big mine in Indonesia


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.

Electron microscope image of an ant's head

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.

Please click here to see how the different detectors compare in showing us different things about the same sample.

Polarized light microscope image of molybdenum ore rock

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 slag from Lyon Mountain, New York

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.

glowing argon-gold plasma in metal sputter coating chamber

Purple glow of ionized argon and vaporized gold atoms forming a gentle metallic snowfall on a sample in the metal sputtering coater

Geochemistry Lab

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:

rock-cutting saws in my dirty lab

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.