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Article: Charge contrast imaging of exceptionally-preserved fossils

Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 52
Part: 4
Publication Date: July 2009
Page(s): 673 680
Author(s): Stuart L. Kearns and Patrick J. Orr
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How to Cite

KEARNS, S. L., ORR, P. J. 2009. Charge contrast imaging of exceptionally-preserved fossils. Palaeontology52, 4, 673–680.

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Charge contrast images are a variant of secondary electron images acquired by operating a variable pressure scanning electron microscope in low vacuum mode; i.e. a gas is present in the specimen chamber. Spatial variation in the amount of charge that accumulates on the surface of the specimen is expressed as differences in greyscale tone; areas that are charging less are darker in tone. The precise mechanisms by which charge contrast images are generated are not known fully. Various different properties of a mineral may create a charge contrast; electrical conductivity is known to be one potentially important variable. As carbon is highly conductive but typical host lithologies (carbonates, silicates) less so or dielectric, the technique is potentially very suitable for imaging organically preserved fossils such as those from the Solite and Jehol biotas. It can also be applied to Burgess Shale fossils: complex films comprising 'aluminosilicates' with or without carbonaceous remains. Charge contrast images reveal anatomical detail not visible using either optical or other scanning electron microscope-based imaging methods.
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