Training & Use

To use any of the machines, you must either be trained by the lab manager or should have a lab operator assisting you. Please see our training information and user policies pages for more information.

Macroscopic & Physical Testing

Macroscopic testing refers to bulk properties (such as surface area or strength) rather than chemical properties.

Mechanical Testing

Mechanical testing measures compressive, flexural, and tensile properties of a material. Compressive strength refers to an object's ability to withstand downward forces which compress it. Compression is also used for hardness testing of materials. Flexural strength or bend strength refers to an object's ability to withstand downward loads which bend it while extending across a distance. Tensile strength refers to an object's ability to withstand an upward force which lengthens it.

Image of our universal testing machine, made by Instron

Instron 5969

  • Dual Column Tabletop Testing System
  • Tensile, Compression, and Flexure Testing
  • Specifications
    • Maximum capacity: 50 kN (5,000 kg, 11,250 lbs); Minimum capacity: 5 N (.51 kg, 1.1 lbs)
    • Test speed range: 0.001 to 600 mm/min (0.00004 to 24 in/min)
    • 50 kN Wedge Action Grips
    • Strain Gauge Extensometer, 1 in gauge length
    • Bluehill Universal Testing Software

Surface Area Analysis

Several methods of surface area and pore analysis exist such as the Brunauer–Emmett–Teller (BET) method, Langmuir method, t-plot, Barrett-Joyner-Halenda (BJH) method, Dubinin method, and the micropore analysis (MP) method. Each uses the physical adsorption of gas molecules on a solid surface such as a powder or small rocks to measure the specific surface area of materials.

Image of our surface area analyzer

Micromeritics Gemini V

  • Surface Area and Pore Size Analyzer
  • Uses compressed nitrogen and helium
  • 8-hour limit on analysis
  • Micromeritics FlowPrep 060 Sample Degas System
  • 3/8" tube diameter

Particle Size Analysis (PSA)

PSA is used to determine the size of powdered particles. Detectors use the scattering of the light to determine the range of diameters of the particles.

Particle Size Analyzer

Beckman Coulter LS230

  • Range of detection from 40 nm to 2 mm diameter (.04 to 2000 μm)
    • PIDS (Polarization Intensity Differential Scattering) detector has excellent small-diameter capabilities
  • Ultrasonicator to break up agglomerations and help suspend large particles


On a digital scale, mass is determined using a strain gauge that converts pressure into an electrical reading.

Image of our analytical balance


  • Weights up to 109 g
  • 0.1 mg readability
  • 0.1 mg reproducibility

Optical Microscopy

Optical microscopy uses visible light and a system of lenses to observe samples at up to several hundred times magnifications.

Olympus BH2 Series System Microscope

Olympus Tokyo PME Inverted Stage/Metallographic Microscope

Olympus VANOX Universal Research Microscope

Sample Preparation & Cross-Sectioning

For certain types of analysis, raw samples non-ideal. Some examples of necessary sample preparation methods are sputtering, grinding into a powder, pressing into a pellet, etc.


Sputtering uses a voltage difference across a solid target to deposit the atoms from that material to the sample. This can be done with gold (Au), carbon (C), palladium (Pd), silver (Ag) and alloys of these materials.

Cressington sputter coaters

  • Cressington 108 carbon/A coater for conductive carbon coatings
  • Cressington 108auto for precious metal coatings
    • fast DC sputtering of Pt, Pd, Ag, Au, and other coatings


Small samples can be mounted in resin to facilitate polishing and handling. The resin material is chosen based on sample properties and final application.

Buehler SimpliMet II Mounting Press

  • Can be used with Buehler Konductomet, Epomet, and Transoptic powders


Samples can be ground and polished until the desired location is visible and smooth.

LECO spectrum System 1000

  • Oscillating Polishing Head
  • 4- or 6-sample holder

Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)

SEM, similar to optical microscopy, magnifies small objects and materials. Instead of visible light, it uses focused electrons to view objects at magnifications from 15 to 60,000x.

Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS)

EDS detects x-rays put off by an electron-bombarded sample. Each element's characteristic x-ray energies create a unique fingerprint. This is used for quantification analysis of materials, and can also be used to view phase or elemental separation within a sample.

An image of our Hitachi tabletop SEM and its EDS detector.

Hitachi TM3030 Plus Tabletop SEM

  • Low-vacuum conditions allow for secondary (topographical) and back-scattered (composition) image observation without metal coating
  • Magnification range : 15 to 60,000x (Up to 240,000x with digital zoom)
  • Accelerating voltage: 5 kV / 15 kV / EDX
  • ThermoFisher EDS detector attached which allows for quantitative analysis of elemental composition
    • Includes quantitative spectra, point scans, and map scans

Hitachi S-3000N

  • Secondary electron resolution: 3.5 nm to 50 nm (sample dependent)
  • Backscatter electron resolution: 5.5 nm to 100 nm (sample dependent)
  • Magnification: 15 to 100,000x
  • Tungsten filament
  • Accelerating voltage: 0.3 to 30 kV


Spectroscopy is the study and measurement of how an object interacts with or emits electromagnetic radiation (light).

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR)

FT-IR involves the absorption or transmission of infrared light. FT-IR spectra show peaks that correspond to vibrational modes between atoms that have a polar, covalent bond.

Varian 3100 Excalibur Series

  • Mid-IR source
  • KBr beam splitter
  • DTGS (deuterated triglycine sulfate) detector
  • Approximate range: 7,500 to 400 cm-1
  • PIKE Technologies GladiATR diamond ATR crystal accessory

Ultraviolet-Visible-Near-Infrared Spectrophotometry (UV-Vis-NIR)

UV-Vis-NIR involves the absorption, reflection or transmission of UV, visible, and near-IR light.

Perkin-Elmer Lambda 950

  • 150 mm Integrating Sphere
    • PbS detector
    • Reflectance range: 200 to 2500 nm
    • Transmittance range: 190 to 2500 nm
  • 2D Detector Module
  • Universal Reflectance (URA) Accessory
    • Automated angular range 8 to 65° in 0.5″ steps
    • Range: 175 to 3300 nm
  • Approximate range: 175 to 3300 nm
  • UV-Vis resolution: ≤ 0.05 nm
  • NIR resolution: ≤ 0.20 nm

Thermal Analysis

Thermal analysis is used to determine a material's properties and reactions to temperature. It can be used to determine thermodynamic and kinetic properties of materials.

Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC)

DSC measures the thermal properties of a material such as melting point (Tm), glass transition temperature (Tg), crystallization point (Tc), and heat capacity (Cp). It can additionally study liquid crystal (LC) phases and transitions or degree and rate of polymer cure.

NETZSCH DSC 3500 Sirius

  • Temperature range from -170°C to 600°C (liquid nitrogen cooled)
  • Modulated DSC and heat capacity measurements available

Thermo-Gravimetric analysis (TGA)

TGA is used to determine the mass or weight change of a material over time or temperature. It can be used to identify decomposition temperatures, oxidation temperatures, the kinetics of decomposition, thermal stability, and some phase transitions.

An image of our combined DSC/TGA instrument

TA Instruments SDT 650

  • DSC/TGA capabilities both available
  • Temperature range of 50°C to 1500°C
  • Modulated DSC, TGA available
  • HiRes TGA available
  • Gasses available on-site are ultra-high purity nitrogen and air. Other gasses available on request.
  • Autosampler allows up to 29 samples and a reference to be run unattended


Dilatometry measures a material's expansion as temperature increases. Dilatometry is very useful in determining a material's coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) and can indicate some phase transitions.

Anter Corporation Workhourse IB

  • Temperature: RT to 1,200 °C
  • Atmospheres: Air, Ar, N2
  • Accommodates samples around 2" in length

X-Ray Diffraction (XRD)

X-ray diffraction (XRD) is an analytical technique used to identify and quantify crystalline phases, as well as provide unit cell dimensions in a material. It is commonly used in powder analysis for phase and alloy structures.

Philips PANalytical X-Pert

  • 2θ angles from 10 to 135°
  • Suitable for inorganic materials
  • Powders and solid materials at ambient temperatures
  • Particle sizing on nanomaterials
  • Reitveld analysis and search-and-match functions available through Match! and the Crystallography Open Database (COD)

Bruker D2 Phaser

  • 2θ angles from 1 to 150°
  • Rotating sample stage (φ rotation)
  • State-of-the-art Lynxeye detector
  • Suitable for powder materials
  • Reitveld analysis and search-and-match functions available through Match! and the Crystallography Open Database (COD)