There is a little room in Stirling University that I have come to know as my second home. Every four weeks or so I make the journey from York to Stirling to use their very new and very exciting SEM-EDX (Scanning Electron Microscope – Energy Dispersive X-ray) on my micromorph slides. Micromorphology is a very visual science and most materials are identified using only their optical properties and morphology (hence the name), however some are optically very similar and some (I have to confess) are almost impossible to identify with any certainty. To remedy this the SEM-EDX is used. This machine basically fires x-rays at the sample, this excites the electrons in the atoms of the sample, the electrons are then fired out of the atom and the remaining electrons move to fill any energy gaps. The SEM-EDX measures the electron movement and from this can calculate which elements are present and can also quantify them! Very clever science. Its really exciting watching all of the elements come up on screen helping identify the different soil components!
Its also great to get out of the usual office and spend some intensive time on my PhD project and also an opportunity to meet other researchers and catch up on all of those little jobs that have been building up over the last three weeks! And you can also enjoy the pretty Stirling weather!