Imaging and Surface Science

Please use the CIF iLab Portal to request training and schedule time on instruments.

The Imaging and Surface Science laboratory has several tools for examining materials and can provide high resolution (angstrom to micron scale), detailed pictures of surfaces and thin films, micro-structural crystallographic information (from electron diffraction data), and X-ray spectral data including elemental analysis of small features.

NOTE:  Use of the TEM requires additional assistance and training due to the complexity of the instrument. Please contact the Imaging and Surface Science Team for more details.

NOTE: There is a minimum charge per project. Collaborative efforts are encouraged.

Contact the Imaging and Surface Science team for more information.

Electron Microscopy Instruments

FESEM:  Equipped with the In-Lens thermal field emission electro gun (TFEG).  This high resolution tool has a multi-purpose specimen chamber and a motorized, automated stage.  The SEM is equipped with a Thermo Electron energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS) for qualitative and quantitative elemental analysis, and with a Nabity e-beam lithography patterning system (NPGS). The NPGS in conjunction with our FESEM allows for patterns to be written with our SEM that are just a few tens of nanometers in width.

Beam time: $42/hr

  • $4.20 minimum charge per use
  • $84 minimum charge per billing cycle

Console time: $10/hr

  • $5 minimum charge per use
  • $20 minimum charge per billing cycle

EDS: $5/hr

  • $0.50 minimum charge per use
  • This cost is in addition to SEM time.

TEM:  Includes HR pole piece, STEM and electron diffraction cameras for studying both hard and soft materials with atomic scale resolution. Also available is a Fishione model 1070 nanoclean plasma cleaner for TEM sample prep.

*Use of the TEM requires additional assistance and training due to the complexity of the instrument.*


Surface Analysis Instruments

XPS:  Also known as Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis (ESCA) – a technique to investigate the chemical composition of surfaces (elemental identity, chemical state, and quantity of elements). Can also provide useful information about depth profile and thickness. See below for more information.

Beam time:  $50/hr

  • $5 minimum charge per use
  • $100 minimum charge per billing cycle 

Sputtering only:  $25/hr

  • Minimum of 0.5 hour

CAG:  Used to measuring contact angles using the sessile drop technique. The DSA10 is capable of measuring static contact angles (still camera mode) or time dependent contact angles (video camera mode) on flat substrates using a wide variety of probe liquids.


2 hour minimum use per billing cycle

Profilometer:  For measuring a material surface’s profile and quantifying its roughness.


  • 1 hour minimum/use
  • $24 minimum charge per billing cycle

AFM:  With both continuous and tapping mode tips, nanometer or better resolution possible.


  • $15 minimum charge per billing cycle
  • $30/tip charge

Sample Prep Tools

Samples may be coated with gold layers of varying thickness for enhanced imaging.

Gold Sputter Coater: $1/nm

Samples may be coated with carbon layers of varying thickness for enhanced imaging.

Carbon Coater:  $40/use

Variable speed precision wafering saw for sectioning materials with extreme accuracy. The cutter is useful for sectioning a variety of materials including metals, ceramics, and electronics.

*Charged for consumables

Double wheel grinder-polisher for 8-10 in. wheels with variable speeds.

*Charged for consumables

With adjustable vibration frequency and voltage, the speed of polishing action can be controlled, allowing for large and small samples to be prepared separately or simultaneously.

*Charged for consumables

Dr. Patrick McCurdy

Dr. Patrick McCurdy
Research Scientist III
Lab Manager, Imaging and Surface Science
CIF, Chemistry, B115A
(970) 491-1876

Dr. Roy Geiss

Dr. Roy Geiss
Research Scientist II
Analytical Specialist TEM/SEM
CIF, Yates 101
(970) 491-6103

Please contact Dr. Pat McCurdy about Imaging and Surface Analysis or Dr. Roy Geiss about Electron Microscopy Analysis.

Additional Information