World's Fair

Yesterday, I got this message:

Subject: Free TEM?

Hi David,

We have an old (functional) Philips TEM 400 electron microscope that we’re going to send away for scrap metal. I’d love to keep it for student training but we don’t have the space. Before we send it away as scrap metal I just thought I’d ask if you were interested in having it for the Biotech teaching lab?



If you’re wondering, the TEM 400 weighs a little over a ton, and looks a little like this:


I’ve jokingly tweeted about putting it in my kitchen, but in case I can’t use it (which seems quite likely given its size), it seems an awful shame to throw it away.

Leave a comment if you have any leads on where it might go. It’ll also help if the idea you have is near Vancouver, since it’s apparently not cheap to transport. I think there are a few other leads but, just in case, t doesn’t hurt to take some suggestions.

Hmmm, maybe 1st prize for a writing contest at the Science Creative Quarterly?


  1. #1 Katharine
    December 10, 2009

    Advertise it in CNS?

  2. #2 Leonardo Polon
    December 10, 2009

    Would you donate it for a brazilian university? seriously!

  3. #3 Micah Sittig
    December 10, 2009

    Even a local private/public high school with a motivated teacher might get some use out of it. They could even name it after you, the David Ng Tunneling Electron Microscope.

  4. #4 Carlie
    December 10, 2009

    If they really want to put it to good use, they could check with NSERC to see if there have been any worthy but unfunded EM grant applications from schools that might want this one as a substitute.

  5. #5 David Ng
    December 10, 2009

    These are all great suggestions. I particularly like the NSERC angle since that’s also in my neck of the woods. Will follow through. Leonardo, I’ll also keep you in mind (just in case), but I really got the sense that transportation would be nuts (apparently to scrap would cost $500 in transportation alone) – could not imagine how much it would be on a longer journey!

  6. #6 Philip Riley
    December 11, 2009

    Where is this located?

    There is a bio art group in new York City that would like this very much.

  7. #7 David Ng
    December 11, 2009

    O.K. a few more details. This would be a tough thing to give away. This particular model has a defect in the cooling unit (which would cost a lot to fix). As well, it’s only set up for emulsification (old school photography) – not digital.

    Other tricky parts is that you may need some renovation to incorporate special plumbing required (and also electrical), nevermind the 3m x 5m footprint of space required.

    Finally, this machine is generally thought of as being difficult to use (i.e. a full time technician is what you’d really want to maintain it, with a service contract in case it breaks down)!

  8. #8 billygroat
    December 13, 2009

    Who else has such a beast that might need parts to maintain their own?

    googling “scientific equipment exchange” gave me a few hits. I’ve done well with LabX

    Please, salvaging at least some of it is better than scrapping all of it.

  9. #9 rahul khopkar
    December 13, 2009

    Hi David,

    That’s very generous of you! I am currently doing research on Larmor heating of tumors and would very much appreciate this gift!

    -Rahul Khopkar

  10. #10 Erica
    December 16, 2009

    Try selling it to IET

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  12. #12 Pol
    November 19, 2013

    Nice story! Thanks.

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