With regard to the mechanism of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) excited by deformation and failure of coal and rock, the present study employed the optical microscope, digital microhardness tester and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to measure surface morphology, surface microhardness and electro-mechanical characteristics, including elastic modulus and surface potential of coal. The results show that micro-mineral composition and micro-mechanical properties of coal are clearly heterogeneous. The elastic modulus values measured are 62.3 MPa-4.0 GPa and the surface potential values tested are 21.2-166.2 mV. The proportion distributions of the two parameters mentioned follow the normal distribution, which indicates the electro-mechanical characteristics of coal are clearly inhomogeneous at the micro-and nanoscales. Finally, the effects of the inhomogeneous elastic modulus and surface potential on the EMR from the microscopic perspective were analyzed. In this experiment, the change of the micro-elastic modulus and the existence of the surface potential on the coal surface were directly observed. The findings reveal the mechanism of EMR induced by deformation and failure of coal and rock.