Taking apart the controls of a scanning electron microscope

Recently my friend Ilan happened upon the control consul for an old scanning electron microscope on reuse. At MIT it is common for people and labs to post stuff to reuse@mit.edu, which means that it is free to whoever wants to take it. The idea is more free stuff and less trash.

I don’t know too much about electronics, but I can appreciate that this machine was beautiful. We took it apart to salvage parts and took pictures along the way. It felt quite criminal to be ripping it apart. If you know stuff about anything you see, please share!

ISI-SS60 Scanning Electron Microscope

the whole thing

caps and transformers

playing with fuses

power resistor tunnel. Lots of components were hooked up like this in a row, with wires running to them from underneath


some ferrites peeking out

what is it?



mystery item

hardcore heatsink

stuff mounted to the awesome heat sink

mess of wires under the control panel with all the dials and buttons

discrete variable capacitor, adorable!

6 thoughts on “Taking apart the controls of a scanning electron microscope

  1. Pingback: Taking apart the controls of a scanning electron microscope « adafruit industries blog

  2. The mystery item is a high-voltage step-up transformer, similar to the type used in CRT TV line-output stages. Each of the two boxes has two transformers, one with a big insulated orange overwind for the really high voltage stuff. Note all that extra insulating silicone on the wire.

    BTW, those ‘cool knobs’ are the caps of fuseholders.

    • Hi,
      I have been leading a hobbyist effort to collect information for hobbyists that have acquired electron microscopes. For example, I have an ISI Super IIIA. As part of that effort, I am gathering documents, schematics, etc for any SEMs I can find and collecting them here:

      I am interested in any documents you have, in particular I have a strong interest in ISI SEMs such as the one you played with. Although it looks like you are no longer at MIT, I would be very interested if you happened to have any documents (user manual, schematic, etc) from it. I would also be interested if you could release the images under a Creative Commons license (ideally CC-BY) so that I can freely use them on my site.

      I am based out of Mountain View, CA on the off chance you know of any local resources of interest. Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.

      • Hi John, Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to inherit any documentation. However, the blog post is now under CC, feel free to use the photos.

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