With a SEM (scanning electron microscope), the surface of objects can be examined in different ways:
+ SEI (Secondary Electron Imaging = Secondary Electrons Display) for extremely detailed images with details smaller than 1nm .
+ BEI ( Backscatter Imaging = Display by backscattered electrons) for an image of relatively deeper material.
+ EDS (Energy Dispersive X -ray Spectrometry = Display by characteristic X-rays) for the quantitative composition of a sample.

For non-conductive compositions, the low - vacuum mode is an option. Backscatter electrons are used for the image analysis. Another possibility is the vapor deposition of the non-conductive compositions so that they are still conductive.

With magnifications of 30x or even 300.000x the SEM is ideal for 3D surface analysis : fracture surfaces (initiation, fracture direction and progress), composition or contamination of materials and micro phenomena (creep and damage to grain boundaries).