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Scanning Electron Microscope Lab

See how big discoveries can come from the tiniest things in the Gem and Mineral Hall.

SEM Diatoms

General Info

Free with Museum Admission
Free for Members

There are hidden worlds all around us, too small to see with our own eyes. Scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) open those worlds up to researchers like those working at the Natural History Museum, and now visitors can explore those hidden worlds and the behind-the-scenes research made possible with this fantastic equipment in the Scanning Electron Microscope Lab.

NHM's SEM
This instrument helps Museum researchers view even the smallest specimens in astounding detail unearthing otherwise invisible details.

NHM’s SEM has a resolution 13,000 times greater than the human eye and can magnify an object 830,000 times larger than its normal size, exposing ants as tiny titans, revealing the secret mechanisms that help flies feed, and uncovering the hidden structures of minerals.

Exhibition content is provided in English and Spanish. Contenido para la exposición está disponible en inglés y español.

Natrolite

Aaron Celestian, Los Angeles, CA. © Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Natrolite crystals magnified by the SEM reveal their structure.

Arthopod

Adam Wall, Los Angeles, CA, 2009. © Adam Wall

The SEM exposes this arthropod as the tiny tank it is.

Strumigenys Elongata2

Giar-Ann Kung, Los Angeles, CA, 2009. © Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Even the most minuscule ants like this Strumigenys elongata get huge under the SEM. 

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Natrolite crystals magnified by the SEM reveal their structure.

Aaron Celestian, Los Angeles, CA. © Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The SEM exposes this arthropod as the tiny tank it is.

Adam Wall, Los Angeles, CA, 2009. © Adam Wall

Even the most minuscule ants like this Strumigenys elongata get huge under the SEM. 

Giar-Ann Kung, Los Angeles, CA, 2009. © Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Along the way, you'll: 

  • Get a behind-the-scenes look at both the SEM Lab and the Mineral Sciences Lab to see research in action. 

  • See incredible images produced by SEM, everything from extreme mineral close-ups to surprisingly terrifying teeth of snails.

  • Snap a selfie with mindblowing microscopic images made huge.

Support for this exhibition and the scanning electron microscope was generously provided by the National Science Foundation and the Ludwick Family Foundation.

National Science Foundation

Ludwick Family Foundation