Microscopy reveals a level of detail and complexity to measure and determine the composition, structure and characteristics of materials giving unique access to the properties and performance of products. Read more Read less

Our unit has a range of optical, electron and ion microscopes with extensive preparation facilities that enable us to investigate a wide variety of samples.

  • A wide variety of analytical tools and the latest available microscopy techniques;
  • Extensive knowledge and experience of analysing many different materials;
  • Fast turnaround;
  • Close links with colleagues who offer additional analytical techniques and expertise.

What we offer

State-of-the-art facilities

Focused ion beam field emission scanning electron microscope (FIB-FESEM)

Left: gas injection system tip, nanomanipulator tip and Cu grid inside the S8000G sample chamber during TEM lamella production,
Right: FIB milled TEM lamella on a nanomanipulator tip during alignment with the Cu post on TEM grid prior to attachment.

FIB-FESEM with integrated TOF-SIMS

  • TESCAN Solaris X, focused ion beam field emission scanning electron microscope (FIB-FESEM) and integrated time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometer (TOF-SIMS),
  • Field emission electron source and immersion lens,
  • Xe plasma source,
  • Secondary and backscatter electron detectors,
  • Nanomanipulator for lamella liftouts.

Scanning electron microscopy

  • TESCAN Vega 3, variable pressure scanning electron microscopes for high resolution imaging (three available),
  • Giant and large chambers (GMU and LMU),
  • Tungsten filament sources,
  • High and low vacuum modes,
  • Oxford instruments EDS detectors,
  • Secondary and backscatter electron detectors,
  • Nordlys Nano EBSD (on GMU).

Hitachi SU5000 field emission scanning electron microscope

  • Secondary electron detectors, lower, top and variable pressure,
  • 5 segment backscatter detector,
  • Conventional and variable pressure modes,
  • EDAX TEAM EDS microanalysis system.

Hitachi SU3500 scanning electron microscope

  • Tungsten filament,
  • Secondary detectors; conventional and variable pressure,
  • 5 segment backscatter detector,
  • EDAX TEAM EDS microanalysis system,
  • Conventional and variable pressure modes.

Additional facilities

  • Philips CM20 TEM,
  • Bruker D5005 X-ray diffractometers,
  • Bruker AFM D3100,
  • Bruker DEKTAK,
  • Micro Materials NanoTest,
  • Spectrometry (Raman, UV-VIS and FTIR),
  • Expert sample preparation equipment.

Image gallery

Left: multilayer coating deposited at Cranfield (multilayers approx 50nm thick).
Right: chip morphology following precision machining.


Left: nanofibres.
Right: thermally modified Fe-Ni microstructure.

Centre: electron back scattered grain orientation map of a functional graded chemical vapour deposited coating.
Right: calcium carbonated precipitates on a membrane for filtering contaminated water.

Capabilities and resources

Recent multi-million-pound investment in our microscopy suite has equipped us with the latest generation analytical microscopes with extensive preparation facilities for materials development and investigation. These systems include:

  • Focused ion beam combined with scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) for high resolution imaging and micro/nanomachining with choice of ion source – gallium ions for high precision and xenon ion plasma for high throughput, large area tomography;
  • 3D chemical mapping using a powerful and unique combination of a high-throughput milling focused ion beam filed emission scanning electron microscope (FIB-FESEM) and integrated time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometer (TOF-SIMS). This system enables 3D elemental mapping with capabilities to detect light elements and distinguish individual isotopes;
  • Electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) analysis for rapid identification of crystallographic phases mapping with grain orientation, texture and grain size statistics;
  • Energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS) and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometer (TOF-SIMS) for elemental mapping with excellent spatial resolution at the sub-micron scale;
  • General scanning electron microscopy (SEM) capability with Tungsten gun variable pressure SEM for high resolution imaging of a range of samples including, conductive metals, non-conductive ceramics, glasses and polymers together with surfaces which are normally hostile to an SEM environment such as wet, oily, dirty and delicate samples. These systems are invariably equipped with EDS as a minimum to enable a high level of investigative productivity on all the system within the unit.

Commercial services

A wide range of analytical services includes the most up-to-date advanced electron and ion beam scanning microscopes, with dedicated experienced laboratory technical staff. Our facilities comprise a variety of instruments, with large chambers to provide materials analysis across the length scales from millimetre to nanometer, providing spatially-resolved microstructural information, crystallography, defect assessment chemical composition and strain properties.

Project solutions for your business

We attract some of the highest quality postgraduate students globally to our programmes in materials across aerospace, transport, manufacturing, energy, water, environment and defence. As part of these programmes, our students conduct both group and individual projects. We aim to have all of our student projects sponsored by industry; this offers benefits to both the students and the industry sponsors.

How can your business benefit?

  • Unrestricted access to state-of-the-art facilities within the University unavailable to many businesses due to the high cost of ownership;
  • A cost effective way to investigate projects of interest to you;
  • Access to a rich talent pipeline of students;
  • Projects supervised by world-renowned academic experts to ensure high quality outputs;
  • A comprehensive report on the findings of the project;
  • Networking and promotional opportunities at our project presentations days;
  • Use project sponsorship as part of a longer term strategic relationship with Cranfield.

Collaboration in research

We welcome academic and industrial collaborators to partner with us on research utilising the expertise and advanced analytical instrumentation within our microscopy analysis facilities. Please contact the team to discuss possible projects and funding opportunities.

For more details about the analytical services equipment, including access and training, please contact microscopyservices@cranfield.ac.uk.

Locations of our microscopes: