Michigan Center for Materials Characterization

The Michigan Center for Materials Characterization, also known as (MC)2, is the University of Michigan’s state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the nanoscale analysis of materials. Only two years old, (MC)2, housed in Building 22 of the North Campus Research Complex, continues on its successful path to provide state-of-the-art instruments, professional training, and in-depth education for students and researchers from all across campus, local industry, and sister academic institutions.

Two new members joined the Center in early March 2016: Bobby Kerns, the new Center Manager, and Allen Hunter, Ph.D., Instrument Scientist. Together, Kerns and Hunter bring unique expertise in facility management, instrument maintenance, and advanced SEM and FIB operation.

(MC)2 also introduced three new instruments this year, adding capabilities and upgrading existing techniques:

  • The Hysitron TI950 triboindenter enables mechanical and tribological characterization from the nano to microscale for a wide range of materials and structures. It is complemented by the Hysitron PI 95 Pico-indenter, a specialty holder for direct observations of nanomechanical testing inside a transmission electron microscope.
  • A new Tescan scanning electron microscope with X-ray energy dispersive spectrometry and electron backscattered diffraction capabilities joined (MC)2’s series of existing electron columns.
  • A new atom probe tomography microscope, a Cameca LEAP 5000XR, has recently been installed and introduced to U-M’s Materials Science and Engineering community, replacing the Cameca LEAP 4000XHR instrument. The new LEAP incorporates a brand new, higher efficiency detector design that significantly increases the ability to measure nanoscale features such as precipitates, interfaces, and dilute elements.  The user interface and system controls are also redesigned to simplify operation.

Facts and Figures

  • 13 individual instruments
  • 5 professional staff members
  • 101 PIs supported by (MC)2 in their research
  • Users from 21 departments within CoE, LS&A, Dental, Pharmacy, Public Health, and the Medical School
  • Over 500 total active users
  • Microscopes spanning 8 orders of magnitude in imaging length scales, from millimeters down to tens of picometers

(MC)2 is also in the process of upgrading the camera on the JEOL 3100 R05 microscope to facilitate in-situ imaging, fast acquisition video recording, and low-dose electron energy loss spectroscopy, by installing a Gatan K2 camera.

Center director, Emmanuelle Marquis, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, together with a number of colleagues from across campus, recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation – Major Instrumentation (NSF-MRI) Program, which will allow (MC)2 to acquire a new scanning electron microscope for real-time studies of materials behaviors. This system, the exact configuration of which is currently being finalized, will be a variable pressure SEM, with in-situ Raman spectroscopy and imaging capability, a full cathodoluminescence system, an electron back-scattered diffraction system, an X-ray energy dispersive spectrometry system and a high temperature heating stage. Installation of this system is expected to take place in late summer or early fall 2017.

In addition, the acquisition of a system that will introduce a new technique to the range of tools in the center is planned. X-ray micro computed tomography (micro CT) is X-ray imaging in 3D, using a similar method to that of hospital CT (or “CAT”) scan systems, but on a fine scale with significantly increased resolution. As a 3D microscopy technique, it will allow the very fine scale internal structure of objects to be imaged non-destructively. The configuration and manufacturer of the system is currently under negotiation.

Education and training remain a top priority for (MC)2 staff as the Center broadens its mission to include education and experiential learning in advanced materials characterization. Education Director John Mansfield has initiated outreach activities at local schools and museums, bringing a portable scanning electron microscope to demonstrate principles of electron microscopy in a fun and interactive way, and encouraging young students to operate the microscope. Past events include participation at the Butterfly Festival organized by the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, and a visit to the Creekside Intermediate School in Dexter, Michigan.

(MC)2 has also changed some access requirements, making it easier for students and researchers from local universities to access the Center; (MC)2 has since welcomed users from Wayne State University, Michigan State University, and from Central, Eastern, and Western Michigan Universities.

Weekly lectures, open to the public, provide introduction to (MC)2 techniques and instruments before individual hands-on training. They will soon offer training tools and educational materials online, as well, on their YouTube channel.

To learn more about accessing the facility, discussing future acquisition, or organizing an educational event involving microscopy, visit mc2.engin.umich.edu.

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