Extensive Capabilities for Research, Development, and Materials Quality Control
The Nanomaterials Core Characterization Facility (NCC) is an open access, nationally ranked, collaborative materials analysis multi-user facility where researchers from various universities and industries have access to the capabilities of our state-of-the-art instrumentation and expert advice.
The NCC offers technologies that benefit multi-disciplinary industrial and scholarly research in a broad range of sciences including, but not limited to: regenerative medicine, biotechnology, biology, forensic science, chemistry, pharmaceuticals, materials science, aerospace, and microelectronics.
In a collaborative effort between the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences and the VCU College of Engineering, the NCC also provides a conduit for scientists and industry specialists to bridge their research.
- Electron microscopy (both SEM and TEM) has become a powerful tool for the characterization of the morphology of complex materials. It is used in nearly every materials oriented industry.
- Image bulk samples with Hitachi SU-70 SEM down to approximately 1.0 nm resolution.
- Obtain 0.23 nm edge-to-edge resolution with transmission electron microscope (TEM).
- Chemical mapping of elements or crystallite regions using analytical features on the SEM and TEM.
- Mechanical manipulation of nanometer sized samples with Kleindiek high precision system in situ SEM.
- Creating nanotopography by focused ion milling (FIB).
- Electron beam lithography to develop microelectronic devices
SEM, FIB and TEM Instruments
Photo- and Auger-Electron Spectroscopy
- Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis (ESCA) is an extremely powerful tool for the characterization of surface chemical composition. It is used in nearly all industries interested in the surface chemistry of materials.
- Determine not only the elemental composition, but also the chemical and electronic states of those elements.
- Detect the chemical composition as thin as atomic monolayers from temperature 77 to 600K.
- Manipulate the sample orientation, etch layers off the surface to do depth profiling, and even determine the impact of gas phase reactions.
- Image element distribution with a high lateral resolution (90 nm) with Auger spectroscopy.
- Measure work function with ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy (UPS)
- Scan X-ray induced secondary electron images (SXI) with lateral resolution ~10 micron
X-ray Diffraction Crystallography
- This kind of analysis is critical in a wide range of industries such as environmental, food science, pharmaceuticals, quality control and failure analysis.
- Phase composition and identification of unknown crystalline materials.
- Identify the unknown materials as well as provide quantitative composition ratios in mixed phase samples through comparisons to reference patterns.
The NCC provides two different forms of spectroscopy: x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and Raman spectroscopy. These instruments are extremely sensitive, providing chemical composition and chemical state information on a variety of samples ranging from polymers to inorganic materials.
The M-2000 ellipsometer is able to collect data across the entire 250– 1700 nm range with about 2 nm resolution in a fraction of a second. Combined with automated sample alignment, customizable computer controlled X-Y mapping, and focusing probes for small samples, users are able to determine the thickness of thin films and complex optical function in the ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared spectral ranges.
Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy
- One of the main techniques utilized in life sciences.
- Commonly used for the specimens stained with fluorophores, which highlights components of the observed cells.
- CLSM is employed to optically slice semitransparent samples.
- Measures roughness of surfaces.
Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope
Atomic-Force Microscopy (AFM)
- Measures and localizes many forces, including adhesion strength, magnetic forces, and mechanical properties.
- Surface imaging with atomic-level resolution in Z-dimension, and several nanometers in X-Y dimension.
- X-Y nanomapping of mechanical, electrical, and magnetic properties.
- Works for wet biological samples as well as polymers, ceramics, composites and glass.
- FastScan unit has up to 125 lines/second recording rate.
Atomic Force Instruments
A Computed Tomography scan (CT) provides a non-destructive technique for 3D visualization, CT-slices of complex samples, and it is onе of the principal techniques in medical imaging, as well as materials science and engineering.
NCC is fitted with two CT scanners:
The SKYSCAN 1173 is a high energy micro-CT scanner for larger and dense objects. It include a 130kV X-ray source, a flat panel sensor, and a precision object manipulator for heavy objects with an embedded micropositioning stage. The instrument provides 3D spatial resolution of about 7μm (low contrast samples). The sample size maximum dimensions are:140mm in diameter and 160mm in length.
MULTISCALE X-ray nano-tomograph SKYSCAN 2214 covers the widest range of object sizes and spatial resolutions. The instrument allows scanning samples (objects) as large as 300mm in diameter with low resolution, and submicron resolution for small samples.
The system is equipped with four X-Ray detectors: flat-panel for large objects, 11Mp cooled CCD with a wide field of view, 11Mp cooled CCD with a medium field of view, and 8Mp cooled CCD for higher spatial resolution. Automatically variable acquisition geometry and phase-contrast enhancement allows obtaining optimum possible quality in relatively short scanning time.
Computed Tomography Scanning Instruments
Other capabilities in the NCC lab include surface wettability measuring by using contact angle, as well as the capability to measure heat capacity, magnetic and electrical properties as a function of temperature and magnetic field.
If you don't see what you need, contact us. We help make connections for the capabilities you may need.