The microstructure and location of impurities in polar ice are of great relevance to ice core studies. We describe a reliable method to examine ice in the scanning electron microscope (SEM). Specimens were cut in a cold room and could have their surfaces altered by sublimation either before (pre-etching) or after (etching) introduction to the cryo-chamber of the SEM. Pre-etching was used to smooth surfaces, whilst etching stripped away layers from the specimen surface, aiding the location of particles in situ, and allowing embedded structures to be revealed. X-ray analysis was used to determine the composition of localized impurities, which in some cases had been concentrated on the surface by etching. Examining uncoated surfaces was found to be advantageous and did not detract from qualitative X-ray analysis. Imaging uncoated was performed at low accelerating voltages and probe currents to avoid problems of surface charging.
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