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Scanning electron microscopy generally requires specimen preparation which includes dehydration or drying and metal coating. This preparation is necessary for beam sensitive specimens or specimens that contain water and/or oil. This has been a necessary requirement for quality imaging with conventional scanning electron microscopes (SEMs).
Recently with the development of variable-pressure SEMs (VP-SEMs), scanning electron microscopy of most specimens has become possible without the need of specimen preparation. Water-containing wet specimens can be examined at low temperatures at which water vaporization is suppressed and specimen artifacts due to water evaporation are minimized.