Overview of Shared Facilities

Our MRSEC maintains a robust set of Shared Research Facilities for making, characterizing, measuring, and imaging many types of materials and samples. Our Shared Research Facilities play a major role providing crucial support to the evolving scientific and technical needs of the IRGs. Moreover, interactions that take place within these facilities often lead to the collaborative efforts between different research groups which are the hallmark of our program. From the training received, students acquire a broad interdisciplinary outlook on materials research, and this helps us transfer technical know-how from one generation of students to the next.

Most of facilities are headed by a professional PhD-level technical staff member and all are supervised by Materials Center faculty. Our technical staff maintains and improves the equipment, performs measurements or prepares samples, and especially, trains students, research associates, and faculty to use the equipment. All shared facilities are open-access and available to all internal, external academic, and industrial users. Some of these might be able to help you in solving a preparation or characterization problem in your company or lab. If so, please contact us. We would like these facilities to have maximum benefit and impact. Many of our members are also willing to share their expertise to help companies implement these techniques. If you're interested in exploring a specific technique with us. Please contact the technical director(s) of the facility of interest, or the faculty supervisor.

Some of the major services and equipment are highlighted below. Additionally, the Materials Center provides access to specialized, affiliated facilities such as the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics Nanobiology Facility, Biophysics Facility, Transmission Electron Microscopy and magnetic resonance imaging. In response to the needs of several of the IRGs, a number of facilities have been upgraded, reorganized, or newly established. Additional upgrades are planned as the scientific needs of our Center evolve.

Resources include:

  • FEG Scanning electron microscopes with electron-beam writing capabilities and sub-nm imaging resolution
  • Scanning probe microscopes including atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes
  • A suite of spectrocopy instruments for Raman, Fluorescence, UV/Vis/NIR absorption, particle sizing, thin film, and thermal characterization
  • Materials preparation lab with surface coating, thermal processing, optical lithography, and vapor deposition facilities
  • Laser cutter, 3D printers, and personal CNC machines for rapid fabrication
  • State-of-the-art image processing and high-speed cameras
  • Low temperature magnetic and electrical characterization


Materials Preparation and Measurement Laboratory

Faculty Supervisor: H. Jaeger
Technical Staff: Dr. Q. Guo & Dr. J. Jureller

Website:  Materials Preparation and Measurement Laboratory

The Materials Preparation Laboratory provides facilities for sample fabrication, processing, patterning and characterization of many types of samples. Instrumentation encompasses scanning probe microscopes (AFM and STM), scanning electron microscopes (SEM), optical lithography and imaging, sample cutting-polishing, surface coating, thermal characterization, optical characterization via steady-state and time-resolved fluoresecence, absorbance, reflectance, Raman, and light scattering. The MPML is currently expanding its digital fabrication and rapid prototyping resources through the addition of 3D printers, a laser cutter, and a CNC micromill.

A key aspect of the Lab is extensive one-on-one training with experienced PhD-level staff. After extensive training that covers operational procedures and safety training, it is possible for all users, from undergrads, graduate students, and postdocs to external users of all levels, to operate instruments by themselves.  Qualified users are given 24/7 access to the instruments.  MPML staff may also provide direct service on an as-needed basis.  


Quantum Transport Laboratory

Faculty Supervisor: D. Schuster
Technical Staff: Dr. J. Jureller

The Quantum Transport Laboratory (QTL) maintains a Quantum Design Physical Property Measurement System (PPMS), allowing for characterization of the electrical, thermal, transport, optical, and magnetic properties of a variety of samples as a function of temperature and magnetic field. The PPMS provides precise and continuous temperature control from 1.7K to 400K and is equipped with a 9-Tesla superconducting magnet for work at high magnetic fields. A Cryomech PT410 Helium reliquifier allows continuous operation with closed-cycle cryogen recovery. Installed accessories include DC resistivity, high vacuum (<10-5 Torr) cryopump operation, horizontal sample rotation, and a user-modifiable multifunction probe for custom sample assemblies. A BNC breakout box allows direct electrical access to connections on sample pucks. Experimental control is provided by MultiVu, Labview, or Python software packages. Available instrumentation includes a Lakeshore Model 370 AC resistance bridge, a two-channel Signal Recovery 7230 DSP lock-in amplifier, a Keithley 2636A Dual-channel SourceMeter unit, a Keithley 3706A matrix switch to allow automated 4-wire measurements on multiple samples, and a variety of dewar-compatible optics and spectrometers for custom user measurements. A Keysight 20 GHz network analyzer will be added soon to allow microwave measurements. The QTL also manages an Alcatel ASM GraphD+ Helium leak detector on a portable cart. Training of new users is conducted on a one-to-one basis and the facility routinely provides technical consultation and instruction in cryogenic techniques. 


Computational Facility

Faculty Supervisor: T. Witten
Technical Staff: B. Busby, T. Indelli

This facility is operated jointly with with the James Franck Institute to provide central scientific computing resources and infrastructure support. It provides consultation support for the users of the roughly 120 independently-run scientific computers, maintains a dedicated cluster of three 48-core nodes for batched medium-scale computations, and maintains five other computer clusters dedicated for specific simulation projects. It provides a central home directory server, web server, email server, and print server, used actively by about 180 users.


Electronics Laboratory

Faculty Supervisor: N. Scherer
Technical Staff: K. Macphearson

Website: Electronics Laboratory

The lab provides professional consultation on problems regarding electronics design and operation. It also provides fee-based repair and equipment construction services to MRSEC members. A shared pool of analyzers, signal generators, and other equipment for use by MRSEC members is available. In the recent past, the lab has designed and constructed specialized circuitry for STM tip etching, laser power and timing stabilization, computer interfaces for electron energy spectrometers, and high-frequency quadrature signal demodulators.


Fast X-Ray Imaging Facility

Faculty Supervisor: H. Jaeger

In response to the need for x-ray imaging and tomography capabilities at our MRSEC we have developed a new mobile facility centered around a C-arm x-ray system. The heart of this facility is a state-of-the-art OrthoScan HD mini C-arm that uses a flat panel x-ray detector to allow for video rate imaging. The resolution is 2,000 x 1,500 pixels and the field of view can be as large as 6”x5”. The C-arm configuration means that source and detector are mounted at the ends of a c-shaped brace that can be rotated manually in two orthogonal directions as well as translated in xyz. This makes it possible to bring the unit to experiments in any of the labs of MRSEC faculty and to image components without removing them, as long as the C-arm will fit around the piece to be x-rayed (max. gap between source and detector 14”). The unit is fully computer controlled and allows for a variety of different imaging modalities. A special feature of this facility is an add-on we developed, which uses a computer controlled stepper system to rotate samples up to 6” tall and 3” wide at the center of the C-arm in order to perform tomographic imaging.


Image Processing Facility

Faculty Supervisor: S. Nagel

This mobile facility maintains a portable suite of high-speed digital video cameras with complementary capabilities. Some cameras are capable of imaging at 1,000,000 frames per second. The cameras may be signed out by MRSEC members for use in their indivdual laboratories. The purchase of these cameras were leveraged through MRSEC and other University support.

The Facility currently manages:

  • A Vision Research Phantom v2512 camera (1280x800 pixels, 25Gpx/s bandwidth, and 25,600 fps at full resolution)
  • A Vision Research Phantom v1610 camera (1280x800 pixels, 16Gpx/s bandwidth, and 16,600 fps at full resolution)
  • Two Vision Research Phantom v12.1 cameras (1280x800 pixels, 6Gpx/bandwidth, and 6,242 ftps at full resolution)
  • A Vision Research Phantom v9.1 camera (1632x1200 pixels and 1,000 fps at full resolution)
  • A Vision Research Phantom v7.3 turbo camera (800x600 pixels and 6,688 fps at full resolution)
  • Two Vision Research Phantom v7.1 cameras (800x600 pixels): one color and one monochrome)

This facility has been extensively used in outreach activities as well as in research.  For example, the high speed video is used to film the events at the annual "Physics with a Bang!" lectures so that the audience can see the surprising phenomena involved in explosions, fracture and fluid behavior that occurs too rapidly to be observed by the human eye.


Rheometry Facility

Faculty Supervisor: H. Jaeger

We established this facility to characterize the stress/strain relationships and other rheological properties of complex fluids.  The facility maintains an Anton Paar MCR 301 rheometer with fully automated measurement capabilities in both stress and sheer rate control modes.  Tools for parallel plate, cone, as well as Couette measurement geometries are available.   The sample stage is temperature-stabilized and a solvent trap is available.  The system also has capabilities for applying electric fields (up to 5kV) and magnetic fields (up to 1 T) to characterize electro-and magneto-rheological fluids.


Student Machine Shop

Faculty Supervisor: G. Engel

Technical Staff: L. Mazzenga

Our fully equipped student machine shop plays a vital role in the training of MRSEC members, from undergraduates and REU students to postdocs. The shop gives MRSEC students the flexibility to easily design and safely produce machined parts and research prototypes. Main equipment includes several Bridgeport mills, Hardinge lathes, a CADworkstation and a welding station. The shop has been tremendously successful over the last several years due to the availability of highly motivated, exceptionally qualified staff for consultation and training. Training classes on machine operation and safety are regularly offered during the year (passing of this class is a prerequisite for working in the student shop). Purchase of a Tormach PCNC milling machine was recently completed. Acquisitions of radius stressors for a surface grinder and an indexing head capable of measuring within 1 degree are planned.