Prep EMS-E

Prep EMS-E

Location: Science and Engineering South, 116A

  Unassisted Assisted
(1 unit)
UIC Cost $15.30 (per hour) $61.20 (per hour)
Other Academic $24.60 (per hour) $96.60 (per hour)
Non-Academic$85.20 (per hour) $190.20 (per hour)


There are many ways of preparing specimens for electron microscopy. The EMS staff are available to help investigators determine the best way of getting the information they need from their specimens. The following is intended only as a general guideline.

All EMS TEMs take standard size specimens (3mm in diameter). The maximum thickness of the specimen depends on the density of the material, the accelerating voltage of the microscope and the resolution of the analysis to be carried out. The EMS has extensive specimen preparation facilities to convert bulk material into transmission thin samples of the correct diameter. Specimens can be either self supporting (i.e. the whole specimen consists of one material) or supported on a grid or a slotted 3mm washer.

Semiconductor, Superconductor and Metal specimens typically are polished down to 100-200 micrometer, a 3mm disc is cut from the material, then the central region is pre-thinned to a few micrometers before final thinning, to perforation, is carried out by Ion Beam Thinning, Electropolishing or Chemical Thinning. Another approach is to slice and mount on a grid before polishing down and then final thinning to perforation.

Catalyst or Ceramic specimens can often be crushed, dispersed in alcohol and a drop of liquid placed onto a grid supporting an amorphous carbon film.

Polymer specimens are typically prepared using an ultra-microtome to cut slices less than 100nm thick which can then be supported on a grid.

Technical Specifications

Equipment available in the EMS-E prep lab includes:-

  • Diamond saw for slicing (South Bay 650)
  • Ultrasonic Cutter, Disc Cutter and Rotary Slurry Cutter for preparing 3mm discs (South Bay 380, 310 and 360)
  • Polishing System (Allied High Tech Multiprep)
  • Polishing Wheels (South Bay 900 and 910T)
  • Tripod Polishers (South Bay 590W) and Disc grinders (Gatan 623)
  • Dimpler/ Polisher (South Bay 515)
  • Plasma Cleaner/ Etcher (South Bay PC150)
  • Twin Jet Electropolisher (Fischione 110)
  • Ion Mills (Fischione 1010 and 3000, Gatan Duo Mill)
  • Ultramicrotome (Leica UCT)
  • Chemical Thinning Apparatus
  • Vacuum Evaporator, Carbon & Metal (JEOL JEE-4X)
  • Ultrasonic Cleaner (Branson 1510)
  • Reflection Stereomicroscope (Fisher Scientific Stereomaster)
  • Transmission Polarizing Microscope (Nikon Labophot-Pol)
  • Transmission Light Microscopes (Leica ATC2000, AO Scientific Instruments One-hundred Microstar, Bausch & Lomb)