Article: Removing gold coating from SEM samples
Stephen A. Leslie and John C. Mitchell
An essential tool in micropalaeontological studies is analysis and imaging using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). It is commonly necessary to coat the sample with a thin layer of gold or gold-palladium alloy in order to prevent charging of the surface, to promote the emission of secondary electrons so that the specimen conducts evenly, and to provide a homogeneous surface for analysis and imaging. However, coating a specimen with gold is a semi-destructive process that masks the surface of specimens, and a common curatorial practice is to prohibit coating of important specimens. We describe a non-destructive, simple and inexpensive technique that uses KCN (or NaCN), a glass jar, paper towels, cardboard and a fume hood for the removal of gold coatings from SEM samples. This technique requires little additional handling of the specimen, and there is no need to place the specimen in a solution.