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Internal users

The Electron Microscopy Center serves the entire University of Kentucky community. To begin, you will need a valid UK account number – this number must remain valid until the billing process has been completed. Check the online calendar and email or call either Dali Qian or Nico Briot to set up an appointment. It would be to our mutual benefit if you familiarize yourself with the techniques/equipment you plan to use as well as with the center’s policies in advance, by reading this web site (see links to electron microscopy guides in paragraphs below) and searching the relevant scientific literature. Also, if there is a specific technique you want to apply to your sample, it would be helpful for you to bring research papers that show what you are trying to accomplish.

External users

Users outside the University of Kentucky are encouraged to utilize our Center, either as customers or as users themselves. The EMC can provide training on any instrument you anticipate using repeatedly. The center’s staff can also perform analysis on your samples if you cannot travel to the University of Kentucky. In some cases external users are required to bring a valid PO number for the cost of their time in advance. Contact us for more details. Typically, external users can only use the Center during normal business hours, but we can make special arrangements for someone to assist you after hours. The information required on your arrival will be:

  • Account Number
  • Address where invoice is to be sent
  • Contact person in your business office who will handle payment
  • Your own contact information

Industrial users who require confidentiality and intellectual property agreements should contact the EMC regarding this need.


    The Electron Microscopy Center functions primarily as a research and teaching center. For internal (university) users, the EMC can perform microscopy services on a job basis, but these services are typically limited due to time constraints – in most cases, internal users will be expected to complete training so they can perform the work themselves. In cases where new techniques need to be developed or sophisticated analysis needs to be performed, we are open to discussing collaborative arrangements. For external (non-UK) users, the EMC can provide microscopy services for a fee and/or training so that you can perform the work on your own.

    Getting Started in SEM

    Read this SEM Guide (from JEOL) before starting training to familiarize yourself with SEM concepts and procedures. Check the availability of the instrument you wish to use. The calendar for each instrument can be found on the center’s online scheduling system FOM (please click here)

    Select an open day and a time:

    • Regular hours for the EMC are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday

    Then, if you need assistance during your session, check Nico Briot or Dali Qian’s availability by:

    • Verifying that Nico Briot or Dali Qian is not assisting another user at your time of choice (you will find links to switch to other instruments calendars at the bottom of each calendar’s page).
    • A session highlighted in yellow means that the user is helped by Nico Briot or Dali Qian.
    • Check the day & time that you previously selected in order to see if Dali Qian or Nico Briot are busy or out of the office on your day of choice

    If Nico Briot or Dali Qian is available and the instrument is open, then e-mail your request to Nico Briot or Dali Qian. Include in your request:

    • The instrument you wish to use or be trained on, the account number you will be using, and the day and time that you have selected.
    • When you come for training, bring your sample (or a representative sample) and a valid account number.

    Getting Started in TEM

    Although TEM work is more complicated than most SEM work, you can be trained to perform basic imaging and chemical analysis within a few short sessions. This will allow you to obtain useful characterization information (especially related to internal structure/composition and microstructural defects) that is not available from other techniques. Two resources are recommended for becoming familiar with theoretical and practical aspects of TEM:

    “Learn to use a TEM Quickly” is a series of brief explanations for various TEM steps, on the John Rodenburg website

    You can also read the book “Transmission Electron Microscopy” by David B. Williams and Barry Carter

    After contacting and scheduling a training session with Dr. Qian, the new user will learn basic alignment and operation, including imaging and diffraction. Some users may also want to learn energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) or convergent beam electron diffraction (CBED). Users will become more proficient with continued use and may want to learn more advanced techniques such as scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) or high angle annular dark field (HAADF) imaging for elemental contrast.

    New users in TEM are encouraged to discuss with Dali Qian, either prior to or during their first training session, their specific characterization needs. In cases where the user is interested in more than basic imaging, Dr. Qian can provide advice on which EM techniques may be advantageous for your research project, provide you with references covering relevant background material, and help you assess the time and difficulty associated with different techniques. In such cases it would be very helpful for you to bring any papers that show the types of analyses you are interested in, on materials similar to yours.

    Specimen preparation is key to the successful application of TEM to your research project. In some cases, sample prep is straightforward (e.g. for nanoparticles or nanomaterials). And in some cases, sample prep is more involved. The EMC specimen preparation lab offers equipment to prepare your materials for TEM analysis, using a variety of techniques. Our job is to help you address your research needs using materials characterization techniques, including TEM, SEM and EDS, and we are happy to discuss appropriate preparation routes to support your work.

    User Policies

    • After demonstrating proficiency on a particular instrument, you may be granted after-hours access by being issued a key code. This key code is for your use and should not be shared with other users.
    • There is currently no charge for using the EMC sample preparation facilities, but this equipment use is nominally intended only for samples that will be analyzed at our center. Please discuss your sample prep needs with EMC staff.
    • You should use the EMC equipment only in ways you have been instructed – before using new/unfamiliar features of the equipment, ask EMC staff to teach you how to perform the new tasks properly.
    • If you notice any equipment problems or find that supplies have run out, please inform EMC staff.
    • Sample preparation equipment and supplies are to remain in the EMC. Contact EMC staff if you have special circumstances, e.g. long sample preparation procedures that must continue after normal working hours.
    • Typically, external users may use EMC equipment only during regular work hours, when EMC staff are available for consultation. If you need after-hours access, please discuss this with EMC staff.