The SEM images the surface structure of bulk samples, from the biological, medical, materials sciences, and earth sciences up to magnifications of ~100,000x.
The images have a greater depth of field and resolution than optical micrographs making it ideal for rough specimens such as fracture surfaces and particulate materials. Images are recorded in a digita format.
There is also the option of looking at frozen samples which has applications in the food technology and pharmaceutical fields.
EDS allows elemental analysis with the SEM as well as qualitative and quantitative analysis of the elements Sodium to Uranium but excluding Lanthanides, Actinides and gases down to levels of ~0.1 wt%, and from an area of ~1um in diameter.
X-ray mapping is also possible, which shows the distribution of elements within a sample. X-ray linescans show the concentration variation of elements along a line on the sample.