Capabilities and Applications

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Scientist Analyzing Samples

Scanning Electron Microscope (JEOL JSM-6490LV)

The scanning electron microscope is a high resolution imaging and microanalytical platform. It produces a magnified image of a sample by scanning a focused electron beam across the surface of a sample and observing various signals produced when electrons interact with the sample. Images with magnifications from 8-300,000x can be collected with an ultimate resolution of 3 nm.

Almost any solid material can be observed using the SEM. Because of the variable pressure abilities of the SEM it is possible to observe insulating materials directly without the need for a conductive coating in the LV mode. It is also possible to observe biological materials without the need for extensive sample preparation.

The SEM is also equipped with an energy dispersive x-ray detector (EDS) and an electron backscatter diffraction system (EBSD). These two systems allow for the chemical and structural characterization of materials at micrometer scales. A cathodoluminescence imaging system is also available to observe samples that produce visible light when bombarded by the electron beam. Users can check SEM Google calendar to schedule time on the instrument. More Information

Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope (Zeiss LSM710)

The confocal laser scanning microscope is a high resolution fluorescence imaging platform.  It produces a magnified fluorescence image of a sample by scanning a focused fluorescent light beam across the surface of a sample and observing fluorescence signals emitted from the sample. 

  • It has 6 lasers (405, 458, 488, 514, 561 and 637nm) and 5 objective lenses (10, 20, 25, 40 and 63X).
  • The advance capabilities include but not limited to z-stack imaging for optical slicing 3-D scan, bleaching for fluorescence recovery after photo-bleaching (FRAP) and tile scan (large area scan).
  • The microscope is also capable of brightfield imaging and differential interference contrast imaging.
  • User-friendly Zen software allows us to perform complex tasks in a very simple manner.
  • Users can check LSM710 Google calendar to schedule time on the instrument. More Information

Powder X-Ray Diffractometer (XRD, Phillips X'pert MPD)

The powder x-ray diffractometer is used to determine the crystalline structure of materials. By measuring the amount of an incident x-ray beam that is diffracted through the sample at a range of incident angles it is possible to identify the material being examined by comparing these angles to those from known materials. 

It is used primarily for phase identification of crystalline powders. Powerful Jade software allows us to quantify the relative proportions of phases in a polyphase material or determine unit cell parameters of specific phases via Rietveld refinement. Users can check powder XRD Google calendar to schedule time on the instrument. More Information

Single Crystal X-Ray Diffractometer (XRD, Rigaku Rapid II)

The single crystal x-ray diffractometer allows for the precise determination of the atomic structure of crystalline materials. By placing a single crystal of a material in an intense monochromatic x-ray beam, diffraction patterns can be produced. A series of diffraction patterns are collected as the crystal is rotated 3-D in the x-ray beam.

By analyzing these diffraction patterns it is possible to determine the precise crystalline structure (position of each atom, bond lengths and angles between atoms). This information is very useful when developing new compounds or investigating specific properties of known compounds. More Information

X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF, Rigaku NEX CG)

The x-ray fluorescence spectrometer is typically used to determine the elemental composition of bulk materials (rocks, ores, metals, concrete, etc). By exciting a sample with an intense x-ray beam, the sample will emit x-rays with energies characteristic of the elements in the sample. By measuring the relative intensity of the various x-ray energies emitted from the sample, it is possible to precisely determine the elemental composition of the sample.

It can also be used to measure elements in liquid samples (oil and aqueous samples) although the detection limits for liquid analysis are higher.  The instrument has been acquired by several professors in collaboration with RIL and is currently located in the Chemical Engineering department. More Information

High Resolution LC-QTOF (Thermo Ultimat 3000 & Bruker micrOTOF-QIII)

The LC-QTOF (liquid chromatograph-quadrupole time of flight mass spectrometer) is used to analyze chemicals in liquid sample by separating them in a chromatographic column and analyzing the masses of parent and fragment ions of each chemical. More Information

In-Vivo Imaging System (Caliper IVIS Spectrum)

The in-vivo imaging system allows non-invasive longitudinal monitoring of disease progression, cell trafficking and gene expression patterns in living animals (for example, cancer in mouse) using fluorescence irradiation. It is equipped with a variable range excitation filter and emission filter. It can measure fluorescence emission in response to the incident irradiation or bioluminescence emission from sample. More Information

Ion Chromatograph (IC, Thermo ICS-1100)

The ion chromatograph separates ions and polar molecules in liquid sample based on their affinity to the ion exchange material in a column and measure abundance of each ion by a conductivity detector. More Information

Mossbauer Spectrometer (SEE Co MS6)

The Mossbauer spectrometer can measure oxidation state or coordination state of select metal (specific to each radioactive source) in sample using gamma ray emitted from the source.  It currently has a cobalt 57 source and therefore can analyze iron. More Information

Light Microscopes (Zeiss Universal and Nikon SMZ1500)

  • The Zeiss Universal microscope is equipped with transmitted and reflected brightfield/polarized illumination systems.
  • It has 6 objective lenses for the reflected light microscopy (16 and 40X dry lenses, 4, 8, 16 and 100X oil lenses) and 4 lenses for the transmitted light microscopy (2.5, 10, 25 and 40X).
  • It is also capable of reflected differential interference contrast (DIC) imaging.
  • The Nikon SMZ1500 microscope is for examination of large specimens in the transmitted light mode.
  • A color CCD camera and image processing software which can fit both microscopes is available.
  • Sputter coater (Denton Vacuum Desk IV) ... for gold-coating SEM samples
  • Vacuum evaporator (LADD Vacuum Evaporator) ... for carbon-coating SEM samples
  • Precision low speed saw (Allied TechCut 4) ... for cutting small samples
  • Grinder/Polisher (Allied M-Prep 5) ... for grinding and polishing geological or metal samples
  • Vibratory polisher (Buehler Vibromet 2) ... for fine polishing geological or metal samples
  • Thin section/film scanner (EPSON Perfection V600 Photo) ... for imaging geological thin sections or other light-penetrable samples with/without polarizer films
  • Electrical fluxer (Claisse The Bee) ... for making flux disc containing sample for XRF analysis
  • Ultramicrotome (Leica Ultracut R) ... for slicing sample into um - nm thicknesses
  • Knife Maker (LKB7801B) ... for making a glass knife for the ultramicrotome and for cutting a microscope glass slide
  • Microtome with a stainless steel blade (Jung 1140/Autocut) ... for slicing sample into mm - um thicknesses
  • Vacuum oven (National Appliance model 5831) ... for heating sample in vacuum or inert gas
  • Manual press (APC solutions MP250) ... for pressing sample with a high pressure
  • Muffle furnace (Lindberg 51794) ... for heating sample at up to 1100 C
  • Analytical balance (Ohaus Aventure Pro AV114) ... for measuring weight of sample down to 0.0001g
  • Mixer/Miller (Spex 8000) ... for ball milling
  • Ultrasonic bath (Branson 1510) ... for ultrasonic cleaning or dispersion of sample

It is possible to collect many different kinds of data from any number of different materials. The lab is used by researchers in several different fields. The list below is represents only a few of the potential applications of the instrumentation in the RIL. If you don't see your specific field or application feel free to contact the RIL Manager, with your questions.


  • Mineral analysis
  • Ore petrology
  • Microfossil morphology
  • Particulate characterization


  • Cell and tissue structure
  • Micro-organism imaging

Materials Science

  • Failure analysis/fractography
  • Wear debris monitoring
  • Surface metrology
  • Particle characterization


  • Paper analysis
  • Contaminant ID
  • Dimensional analysis (film thickness)
  • Cement
  • Metals


  • Corrosion analysis
  • Lead paint analysis
  • Asbestos analysis