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Ready to get your hands on an electron microscope? If you’re looking to purchase or rent an electron microscope, we’ve got some important details you’ll want to check out before you pull out your wallet. With a bit of background information, you’ll know the real cost of owning this piece of equipment and the things you may overlook when searching for one. The low-end of this range is around $70,000.
Keep reading to learn more!
Electron microscopes (EMs) are modern science microscopes with immense imaging power. Compared to a basic light microscope, EMs can magnify a sample down to the molecular level, which is a big advantage when learning about the structure of both organic and inorganic subjects.
This technology is an essential tool for research facilities and labs to study bacteria, reactions to different stimuli, and much more. They can help us figure out solutions to deadly viruses or see what’s on the inside of a diamond.
You may already know this, but there are two types of electron microscopes; scanning EMs and transmission EMs—they collect data differently. A scanning EM “scans” a given sample by flashing electrons across the surface, whereas a transmission EM is used to look at thin strips of a sample.
Before discussing the cost of an electron microscope, you’ll need to know which type of electron microscope you’re considering buying. High-end modern EMs will cost much more than tabletop EMs, but the one you choose depends on the applications you plan on using it for.
Brand-new scanning EMs range quite a bit in price. The low-end of this range is around $70,000, but the top dogs will run you up to $2,000,000.
On the other hand, the cumbersome but more powerful transmission EMs can cost up to $10,000,000. Not for the faint of heart!
However, you can cut the costs by buying used. Second-hand EMs are going to range from $2,500 to over $500,000. This is a big range, so it depends on the condition of the microscope; stay vigilant of units that need repairs because this obviously tanks the value. Of course, every used market will be a lot lower in price compared to a new product, but there may be some technical advantages that older models may fall short of.
The investment of any electron microscope may seem steep, but that isn’t the only thing you’ll be putting your money into. Here are a few things to consider when calculating the total cost.
As high-resolution electron microscopes are quite cumbersome, they aren’t easy to transport. Special equipment and transportation methods may be required to get one of these to its final destination. The cost of delivering a microscope depends on your location, as well as the length of transport. You could cut this cost out if you own a truck, but this can be risky if you don’t secure it properly. However, this is a difficult measure if it’s imported from overseas or if it’s being sent from across a long distance.
Taking care of such a high-ticket item is crucial in any case. With electron microscopes, you’ll likely have a plan when purchasing the equipment, which entails the servicing needs. Manufacturers who sell new microscopes will most definitely provide services to maintain the system, so this will be a negotiation at the time of the sale.
The cost of maintenance will vary greatly with which kind of microscope you’ve chosen, as well as the difficulty that may come with servicing certain EMs. Some issues can be dealt with through internet chat if they are just for software tweaks.
Electron microscopes require specific conditions to operate optimally. Humidity and temperature are two huge components of this, so you need a space that can adjust the parameters accordingly.
EMs consume lots of energy, and therefore, produce lots of heat. This isn’t only due to the machine itself, but other equipment such as the computer and monitoring systems, which also struggle with high temperatures. It’s likely that you’ll need more ventilation or cooling agents than the building or operating area is capable of controlling, especially in the summer!
But the airflow may disrupt the process, so it’s important to keep that minimized.
Make sure to check the cost of electricity in your area, because this equipment uses a lot of power. EMs consume different amounts of energy, but typically, they may use around 100–300 kilovolts (kV). Also, don’t forget what we discussed about the environmental needs, as that can tack on to the electricity usage.
Depending on the application you use it for, you may need additional attachments or devices that connect to the microscope.
Software is often overlooked, though the program used to image and resolve the results can be costly. This also varies with which kind of EM you have, as well as the specific model, which could affect which software is compatible.
In addition to software, you’ll also need a computer that’s capable of processing the images, which has to represent the data as accurately as possible.
It’s possible that both the software and hardware are included in a purchase, so you may be able to save some money in this instance.
Electron microscopy is a rewarding but expensive niche. With difficulties in manufacturing and material costs, it can seem daunting to buy one yourself. However, getting your own electron microscope can open an entirely new world of excitement. You may need one for a university project, or for science experiments. They are worth getting if you’ve got the cash, but if not, you can always try renting or using one that has already been made. Hopefully, this cleared up any confusion and gave you some valuable insight into the cost of an electron microscope. Good luck!
Featured Image Credit: kennethr, Pixabay
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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