Materials Preparation and Measurement Laboratory

Faculty Supervisor: Heinrich Jaeger
Technical Staff: Qiti Guo & Justin Jureller

The Materials Preparation and Measurement Laboratory (MPML) provides facilities for preparation, 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 fluorescence, absorbance, reflectance, Raman, and light scattering. Please see below for an overview of MPML resources and policies.

For more information or to schedule instrument time. Please see the main MPML website:

Main Website:

 Scanning Probe Microscopes:

The MPML maintains a Bruker Nanoscope NanoScope V Multimode 8 AFM, a Bruker Nanoscope IIIa Multimode 5 AFM, a Bruker Standalone STM, an Asylum Research MFP-3D-BIO AFM, and an Asylum Research Cypher ES AFM.

The Bruker Multimodes are used most often for training, in-air and in-fluid imaging, and material property measurements. The Multimode 5 and 8 are both set up with the regular contact and tapping modes, while the 8 is also equipped with ScanAsyst, Peak Force Tapping, and Peak Force QNM (Quantitative Nanomechanical Property Measurement) modes. Multiple J, E and A scanners are available as well as magnetic force, electrochemical, and environmental capabilities. The Bruker Standalone STM provides high sensitivity and high stability STM imaging with atomic resolution at low tunneling currents. A custom-built automated Pt/Ir tip etching system is nearby, so that STM tip can be freshly made when necessary.

The Asylum MFP-3D-BIO is mounted on an inverted optical microscope to enable simultaneous brightfield, widefield epi-fluorescence, or phase imaging. The extended Z-head
allows tapping mode and contact imaging within a range of 40µm in Z and 90µm in X and Y. It also is capable of nanomechanical property mapping, bimodal dual-AC imaging, single-molecule force extension measurements, conductive AFM, and STM. An open-access sample area and a range of environmental chambers (BioHeater, Petri Dish Holder, Heater/Cooler, and Polymer Heater) ensure compatibility for nearly any kind of sample (material, chemical, or biological) in air, fluid, or inert atmosphere. Excellent high-temperature (+300 °C) time-lapse imaging in inert atmospheres with minimal drift is a key advantage.

The Cypher ES acquires high-resolution images in seconds rather than minutes; thereby enabling dynamic AFM measurements in diverse active systems like lipid bilayers, polymerizing actin networks, nanoparticle membranes, and diblock copolymers. Our Cypher ES is equipped with multiple sample scanners for fast high-resolution imaging in almost any environment: air, fluid, perfusion, and heating/cooling from 0C to 250C. We have the only system in the Midwest configured with BlueDrive, Asylum’s novel photothermal drive technique that removes parasitic noises sources associated with traditional piezo cantilever actuation. The Cypher ES also has conductive AFM, Kelvin Probe, and atomic-resolution STM modes. The Cypher has quickly become one of our most popular and powerful AFMs.


Electron Microscopy & Patterning:

The MPML maintains three scanning electron microscopes: A Zeiss Merlin, an FEI Nova NanoSEM 230, and a Hitachi S-2700 SEM.

The Zeiss Merlin is a high-resolution Field-Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (FE-SEM) designed for high contrast low-voltage imaging of delicate samples with resolution better than one nanometer. The Merlin has several low-noise backscatter and secondary electron detectors, a novel charging compensation mode, and has become our primary tool for studying soft materials samples such as polymers, nanoparticles, and active biological materials such as patterned silicon nanowires.

The FEI Nova NanoSEM 230 high resolution field emission SEM is our main imaging tool for nanoparticles, featuring 1nm resolution at 15 KV. A STEM II detector and a vCD detector (for beam deceleration imaging) have recently been added to the standard ETD and TLD detectors. Equipped with a JC Nabity Nanometer Pattern Generation System (NPGS 9.0) this NanoSEM can write patterns down to 20 nm feature sizes.

The Hitachi S-2700 SEM is equipped with a NPGS 8.0 system and can write patterns down to 50 nm feature sizes.


The MPML has home-made near-UV and deep-UV exposure systems for photolithography that can create patterns down to 1µm feature sizes. An Olympus optical microscope with long working distance objectives and a DP72 CCD camera is used for characterization. Spin-coating systems, chemical hoods, and ultrasonic baths are also available in a clean room setting.

Sample Cutting-Polishing

We recently added a ULS VL4.60 Laser Cutter and are adding several 3D printer for digital fabrication and rapid prototpying. In addition, we also have a South Bay Technology diamond wheel cutter, a Buehler ECOMET 3 and a MINIMET 1000 Grinder-Polisher.

Surface Preparation:

The MPML is capable of preparing a variety of engineered surfaces. For surface coating, we have 3 custom-built resistive thermal evaporators, a customized V&N E-Gun Evaporator, a Ted Pella Sputter Coater, In terms of materials, surfaces may be coated with Titanium, Gold, Silver, Palladium, Chromium, Nickel, Germanium, SiO2 and some others. For surface cleaning, we have an ozone surface cleaner and a UV-Ozone surface decontaminator. We also have a South Bay Technology RIE-2000 Reactive Ion Etcher for etching surfaces by He, CF4, O2 and SF6. 

The lab is also equipped for wire bonding (K&S), heat treatment (atmosphere-controlled furnaces), mechanical processing, and chemical processing, as well as sample surface cleaning (ozone and UV cleaners).

Thermal Characterization:

The MPML has a TA Instruments Q600 SDT simultaneous DSC-TGA for thermal characterization of samples in terms of heat flows and weight changes.

Optical Characterization

The MPML maintains a single-beam UV-VIS Spectrophotometer (Agilent 8453), a dual beam Cary 5000 UV/NIS/NIR Spectrophotometer with UMA for reflectance, transmission, and scattering spectra, a Horiba Fluorolog-3 spectrofluorometer with a NIR detector to 1050nm and time-resolved photoluminescence capabilities, a Gaertner WaferSKAN Ellipsometer, and a Malvern Zetasizer NanoZS for measuring particle sizes and Zeta potentials. A Horiba LabRamHR Evolution confocal Raman microscope with 4 lasers and 10cm-1 resolution is our newest addition.

Training and Access

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 REU summer students and 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.

Qualified users may reserve instrumentation using our online scheduler.

Recharge Rates

Recharge recovery is necessary to sustain the ongoing viability of the MPML and support service contracts, equipment maintenance, and user training. A flat per group Facility Access Fee allows most instruments to be utilized without hourly user charges. Instruments and rates are organized into Tiers based on complexity. Users are responsible for all consumables including cuvettes, solvents, pipettes, coverslips, AFM tips, SEM stubs, evaporation materials, precious metals, etc. Some consumables (e.g.: AFM tips, deposition materials, and 3D printer materials) may be purchased from the MPML at pass-through cost.

Detailed rate information is available online