Characterization Team

In materials science, characterization helps to dissect a material’s physical and chemical structure. At the MILL, the Characterization Team use multiple techniques to accomplish this, including optical and electron microscopy, optical profilometry, infrared spectroscopy, and various X-ray techniques (XRD & XRF). Note that X-ray techniques require special X-ray safety training from GT.

The Characterization Team is led by Anush Singhal. Please contact Anush for more information!

Equipment List:

Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)

Located in Love 176

SOPs: PhenomXL G2 & Phenom ProX

The Phenom ProX Scanning Electron Microscope can take detailed images of samples. The maximum magnification is 40,000X to 100,000X and the device is capable of resolving features to <500 nm. Samples must be less than 2.5 cm in diameter and less than 3 cm tall.  Additionally, energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDX) can be performed on samples for elemental detection through point, line, and area scans.

PhenomXL G2 and Phenom ProX SEMs

Sputter Coater

Located in Love 170 (X-Ray Equipment Room)

SOP: Cressington 108 Sputter Coater

Watch: Video tutorial for operating the Sputter Coater

A simple and easy-to-use sputter coater for making samples surface’s more conductive for SEM imagery. A vacuum pump is attached to the sputter coater to achieve vacuum conditions and argon is used as the inert chamber gas. A full calibration has not yet been done on the sputter coater, but the thickness of samples is often changed by varying the time of the sputter.

Cressington 108 Sputter Coater

Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR)

Located in Love 176

SOP: Nicolet iS5 FTIR

Watch: Video tutorial for operating the FTIR

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy uses infrared radiation to determine the chemical bonds present in the sample. Aspectrum of wavenumber and absorbance can be analyzed for the chemical composition of a sample. Organic molecules are most readily identified, making the FTIR an ideal tool for polymer identification and characterization.  In addition to a standard transmission attachment, an attenuated total reflectance head allows for direct testing of solids and liquids without any sample preparation.  The OMNIC software connected to the spectrometer allows for single and multi-component identification of the molecules and polymers in a sample by comparing the spectra gathered to stored libraries of data.

ThermoFisher Nicolet iS5 FT-IR Spectrometer

Digital Microscope

Located in Love 176

SOP: Leica DVM6 Digital Microscope

The DVM 6 Microscope has some unique features. These include, being able to rotate the head of the Microscope 30 degress in either the clockwise or counter clockwise direction, generate 3D mapping of images using a stiching of images taken at multiple elevations, and being able to focus samples with rough surface topography. This microscope is very powerful and is able to resolve features on samples down to a size of 1 µm. Many of the images on the website have been made using this microscope or the SEM.

Leica DVM6 Optical Microscope

Optical Profilometer

Located in Love 176

SOP: Filmetrics Profilm3D Optical Profilometer

The Profilm 3D optical profilometer uses white light interferometry to measure surface profiles and roughness. There are currently 10x, 20x, and 50x objectives that can resolve surface roughness down to 0.05 μm.

Profilm3D Optical Profilometer

Optical Stereomicroscope

Located in Love 167

SOP: Coming soon!

The AmScope optical stereomicroscope is a simple optical microscope, capable of magnifying samples up to 40X. The microscope’s software allows for digital images and videos to be taken and stored on the computer.

DCM300 Optical Stereomicroscope

X-ray Diffractometer (XRD)

Located in Love 170 (X-Ray Equipment Room)

SOP: Coming soon!

The x-ray diffractometer detects crystalline phases in a sample by measuring the diffraction of x-rays at varying angles. For best results, samples should be ground to a powder and randomly oriented.

Thermo Scientific ARL Equinox 100 XRD

X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF)

Located in Love 170 (X-Ray Equipment Room)


X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy allows for rapid detection of the of elemental composition of samples with parts per million accuracy. Elements with atomic numbers greater than or equal to magnesium (12) can be detected. If the composition of the layers in a sample is known, the thickness of those layers can be determined.

Niton FXL Field X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer