One knows the imaging system's properties are central to the correct interpretation of any image. In a scanning electron microscope regions of different composition generally interact in a highly nonlinear way during signal generation. Using Monte Carlo simulations we found that in resin-embedded, heavy metal-stained biological specimens staining is sufficiently dilute to allow an approximately linear treatment. We then mapped point-spread functions for backscattered-electron contrast, for primary energies of 3 and 7 keV and for different detector specifications. The point-spread functions are surprisingly well confined (both laterally and in depth) compared even to the distribution of only those scattered electrons that leave the sample again.

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