Scan of a hawk amulet

ProScanning Electron Microscope (SEM)

The scanning electron microscope’s (SEM) backscatter and secondary electron imaging capabilities presents a unique opportunity to develop an innovative way of doing photogrammetry on objects that would otherwise be unsuitable, such as metal or transparent objects.

In fact this method of photogrammetry should strictly be considered ‘structure from motion’ as there are no photons involved, but photogrammetry is the much more recognised and used term.

You can see one of our our first applications of SEM to a gold amulet here.

Going beyond the surface

The SEM photogrammetry approach also presents additional information for research. The chemical analysis abilities of the SEM also allows elemental mapping capabilities to show the distribution of the components in each object (see our pilot model here). 

This combination of SEM elemental mapping and photogrammetry represents a new field of study and presents many potential avenues of research as it gives insights into the structure and even construction of an object not visible to the naked eye.

Our first project/pilot study aims to develop an efficient methodology for using SEM to produce 3D models of archaeological objects. SEM is a time consuming process as generating the images is substantially slower than conventional photography (it would be comparable to taking a minute long exposure for every image).

Elemental mapping is even more time consuming (it would be comparable to a 5 minute exposure or more depending on desired resolution). Therefore our first steps have been to come up with efficient model building protocols that make further study of the models for wide projects feasible. The paper associated with this research will be included here upon publications (it is currently under review).

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