Micro-Notes from NMCF

News, images, observations and tips from the microscopy team at UVA's Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility

    3D Reconstruction Software Now Available for Phenom SEM

    October 07, 2021
    3D Reconstruction Software Image.JPG

    3D Reconstruction Software is now available on the NMCF Phenom Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).


    3D Reconstruction Software can generate three-dimensional images and provide submicrometer roughness measurements over areas and lines. Calculation of Rz, Rz, and Sa, as well as topographical surface scans and line scans can be acquired. Scans can be displayed as heat maps (image below) or as profiles. Data can be exported to be displayed in user software.


    Details can be found here: https://www.thermofisher.com/us/en/home/electron-microscopy/products/software-em-3d-vis/3d-reconstruction-software.html

    A brief User Guide is available on Sharepoint, and additional information can be found in the Phenom Manual.

    Note that NMCF has a temporary license (expiration: 1 November 2021), so get your measurements in now!


    Would this software would be a useful permanent addition to the SEM toolkit? Let NMCF know! (email: rrw3q@virginia.edu)

    Surface Area Roughness Image.JPG



    NMCF moves into Research Phase III, allowing enhanced instrument access

    June 04, 2021

    The NMCF, along with the rest of UVa's Research Community, has been upgraded to COVID Safety Phase III

    This allows increased access to NMCF instrumentation for students, faculty, and researchers with no room occupancy restrictions. There are no restrictions on trained personnel instrumentation use, with both graduate and undergraduate students allowed access.

    For vaccinated members of the faculty, students, staff, and visitors, the use of face coverings is not longer required. Researchers and visitors who are not yet fully vaccinated are asked to continue wearing masks.

    Instrument training sessions are now conducted in person, although remote training may be requested. 

    Visitors to laboratory spaces no longer need to be logged.


    More information about UVa's Phase III safe research guidelines can be found on the VPR's "Research Ramp Up Guidance" Webpage.

    NMCF Senior Scientist Dickie Named Chair of “Small Molecule” Scientific Interest Group

    December 03, 2020

    NMCF XRD & XCT Specialist Dr. Diane Dickie has been elected as the 2021 Chair Elect and 2022 Chair of the “Small Molecule” Scientific Interest Group for the American Crystallographic Association (ACA). The ACA is a  scientific organization founded in 1949 and dedicated to the promotion of atomic-scale molecular structure research. ACA's mission is to further scientific interactions that "will advance experimental and computational aspects of crystallography and diffraction. Understanding the nature of the forces that both control and result from the molecular and atomic arrangements in matter will help shed light on chemical interactions in nature." More information about the ACA and the activities of the more than one thousand members can be found on their website.

    Congratulations Diane!


    Ramped up Remote NMCF Instrument Training Makes the News

    November 09, 2020

    University of Virginia School of Engineering students, faculty and professional research staff now have an agile and safe way to train on sophisticated instruments housed within the Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility.

    Lab manager Richard White created specialized instrument training videos featuring facility instrument scientists. Then, White and information technology specialist Ig Jakovac developed Zoom remote-training methodology and “driver’s tests” that allow users to complete required training and certification while following COVID-19 protection protocols.  

    Remote training on seven instruments in the Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility began the first week of September. By the end of October, 12 students and post-doctoral researchers passed their driver’s tests and are now at work; remote training can now be completed on all the instruments.

    Cole Love-Baker, a Ph.D. student of mechanical and aerospace engineering, completed training on the Quanta 650 scanning electron microscope. Love-Baker works on the fabrication of carbon fibers, advised by Rolls-Royce Commonwealth Professor Xiaodong (Chris) Li in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

    Carbon fibers are a light-weight but expensive material used in the automotive industry; Love-Baker focuses on designing low-cost precursor materials such as polymers, which could make carbon fibers more attractive for military, aircraft and aerospace applications. Love-Baker’s research involves a lot of experimental work, including synthesis, mechanical testing, spectroscopy and microscopy.

    “The SEM is essential to the investigation of our carbon fibers,” Love-Baker said. “With high-precision measurements of a cross-sectional area, we can accurately characterize the fibers’ mechanical properties and make qualitative statements about the fibers’ structure and composition.”

    Love-Baker found a lot to like about the training experience and the training videos especially. He could observe how to operate the instrument without having to stand in close quarters with White or Joe Thompson, specialists in electron microscopy. After he reviewed the training videos, Love-Baker was ready for remote training, culminating in his driver’s test on the scanning electron microscope, evaluated by White and Thompson.

    “Richard and Joe do not go easy on us; we need to demonstrate that we understand both the functional theory and actual operation of the machine,” Love-Baker said.

    White and Thompson asked Love-Baker to lead them through the training session to prove he would use the machine correctly, from system checks upon entry in the lab to staging and imaging as well as trouble-shooting. Monitoring Love-Baker’s actions over Zoom, they could see how he was operating the instrument and the adjustments he was making.

    The driver’s test is also a learning experience. “They let me make mistakes and showed me how that affected image quality and other factors,” Love-Baker said.

    This creative combination of training videos and Zoom allows students to complete instrument training on-demand to meet research group publication deadlines and sponsored research milestones, while keeping their own course work on track.

    “The SEM will be crucial to my success here at UVA,” Love-Baker said.

    UVA Engineering Executive Dean Pamela M. Norris also had good things to say about this innovation. “I am proud of the Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility and all of our research teams, which have risen to extraordinary challenges this year,” Norris said. “This type of innovation, along with excellent collaboration among our faculty, staff, students and school leadership, has positioned UVA Engineering to be even stronger when we emerge from this pandemic. It is exciting to see the bold ideas that will have a truly positive impact on society.”

    Learn more about UVA Engineering’s bold ideas and research to combat the pandemic by clicking here.

    NMCF Users Meeting for Phase 1 Policies

    June 24, 2020

    NMCF Phase 1 Startup Meeting to Clarify New Safety Procedures

    NMCF Manager, Richard White, will be hosting a remote informational meeting for all NMCF instrument users to clarify the new Phase 1 safety procedures that have been instituted. Please join Richard for a ZOOM Meeting on Monday, 29 June 2020 at 10AM for information and discussion on current NMCF instrument use. Connect via the Zoom Link below:

    Topic: NMCF Phase I Policy Meeting

    Time: Jun 29, 2020 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

    Join Zoom Meeting:


    Oxford Instruments offering free AZtec Suite software for electron microscopy analysis.....

    April 17, 2020

    Oxford Instruments is offering a free, time-limited offline license for the whole of their AZtec suite software for SEM/TEM/FIB/EDS/EBSD analysis to support customers working from home during the coronavirus shutdown.

    Aztec Suite.JPG

    Information and Free Download Link are available on the Oxford Website.


    This temporary software license includes:

    • AZtecFeature is an innovative particle analysis system specifically optimised for usability and high-speed throughput. It combines the raw speed and sensitivity of the Ultim Max Silicon Drift Detector with the superior analytical performance and ease of use of the AZtec® EDS analysis suite to create the most advanced automated particle analysis platform on the market.
    • Gunshot Residue Analysis in the SEM with AZtecGSR is fast and accurate: it gives reproducible Gunshot Residue Analysis results to ASTM E1588 - 10e1. AZtecGSR combines ease of use through its guided workflow, with the ultimate accuracy using the latest Ultim Max detectors and Tru-Q® algorithms.
    • LayerProbe is an exciting software tool for thin film analysis in the SEM. An option for the AZtec EDS microanalysis system, LayerProbe is faster, more cost-effective and higher resolution than dedicated thin film measurement tools.
    • The most powerful EBSD software available, AZtecHKL combines speed and accuracy of results for routine analysis, with the flexibility and power required for applications that push the frontiers of EBSD.
    • AZtec3D combines simultaneous EDS and EBSD data acquisition & analysis with the automated milling capabilities of a FIB-SEM.
    • AZtecLiveOne software platform is the ideal solution for carrying out a complex task like EDS as quickly and as easily as possible. No need for substantial training or advanced knowledge of the EDS technique. Users can be trained in a matter of minutes and will have complete confidence in their results.
    • AZtecTEM is an innovative EDS software specifically optimised for advanced TEM applications.
    • AZtecSynergy provides a powerful solution for the simultaneous collection of EDS and EBSD data. All of the tools to collect excellent integrated data are included in one place with no complicated switching from one navigator to another.
    • AZtecSteel is an automated steel inclusion analysis package developed specifically for the analysis and classification of steel inclusions using Energy Dispersive X-ray microanalysis (EDS) in a scanning electron microscope (SEM). It detects, measures and analyses the inclusions, processes the resulting data set to published standard methods, and includes functionality to plot complex ternary diagrams.
    • AZtecLive is a revolutionary new approach to EDS analysis that enables a radical change in the way users perform sample investigation in the SEM. It combines a live electron image with live X-ray chemical imaging to give an intuitive new way of interacting with your samples.
    • Collecting good quality data is only the beginning of any complete EBSD analysis. AZtecCrystal provides all the necessary tools to process and interrogate your EBSD data and to solve your materials problems. Seamlessly integrated with AZtecHKL or operated as a standalone program, AZtecCrystal sets the standard in EBSD data processing for experts and novices alike.
    • AZtecAM is a powerful, automated, solution for the analysis of metal powders used in additive manufacturing. Based on AZtecFeature, AZtecAM optimises the particle analysis workflow to enable the rapid and accurate characterisation of metal powders.
    • AZtecMineral is a powerful, automated, Mineral Liberation Analysis solution. It enables ore characterisation, provides vital data on metal recovery and enables process yield characterisation using multipurpose SEMs. It is also a valuable tool for the characterisation of rocks in research environments, enabling the automation of otherwise laborious optical analyses.









    Due to the COVID 19 virus the NMCF will be closing Friday afternoon, March 20, 2020.

    March 20, 2020

    Due to the COVID 19 virus the NMCF will be closing Friday afternoon, March 20, 2020.


    This is for the safety of the Staff and Students and to lessen your risk to exposure.


    We will announce when we are planning to reopen the facility for use again.


    Thanks for your Patience and understanding during these difficult times.