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Utrecht University (UU)

UU

The electron and X-ray microscopy centre and the NanoSIMS lab are located at Utrecht University (UU). They have been a focal point and driving force for material research across the disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, and earth sciences in the Netherlands for more than 30 years. Beyond the involvement in the UU microscopy facility, the Earth materials group hosts a brand-new X-ray tomography system.

Electron microscopy
& X-ray centre

NanoSIMS lab

UU has extensive electron microscopy and laboratory facilities which allow for sample preparation, chemical and crystallographic analysis at micrometre- to nanometre-scale. This includes SEMs with automated mineralogy and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), an electron microprobe (EMP), several FIB-SEMs and analytical TEMs. The Department of Earth Science which is a member of UU EM has an advanced infrastructure and expertise in nano-geosciences, mineralogy, petrology, rock deformation as well as ample knowledge in running European projects and large-scale infrastructures.

The NanoSIMS mass spectrometer is a state-of-the-art instrument that offers high-resolution imaging of isotope ratios with exceptional isotopic precision. It is one of about ten similar instruments operating in Europe and can achieve a lateral resolution as low as 50 nm. The NanoSIMS features the latest Cs+ and O- primary ion beams, making it capable of detecting all elements in the periodic table at comparable spatial resolutions. The instrument is employed to create element and isotope ratio maps of a wide range of samples, including single microbial and eukaryotic cells, natural minerals, and synthetic materials. Its applications range from fundamental research in biogeochemistry, such as microbial eco-physiology, carbon and nitrogen cycling, and biomineralization, to climate research, such as climate proxy validation, and Earth material, life and physical sciences.

Equipment EM & X-Ray Centre

01

Scanning Electron Microscopy:
Two scanning electron microscopes (SEM), equipped with high-throughput chemical and crystallographic analysis systems and environmental and cryogenic imaging capabilities.

Zeiss Gemini 450 (SEM):
Variable pressure SEM allowing high-resolution imaging of sample topology including large area samples. Equipped with EDX, EBSD, cryo-stage, panchromatic and wavelength-filtered CL

Zeiss Evo 15 (SEM):
Environmental SEM dedicated to imaging under environmental conditions such as humidity and low gas pressures. Equipped with Peltier cooling stage and EDX with automated mineralogy.
02

Focused Ion Beam-Scanning Electron Microscope (FIB-SEM):

Helios Nanolab G3 (FIB-SEM):
5-30 kV FIB-SEM for high-resolution imaging of surfaces, compositional and structural analysis, and slice-and-view 3D reconstructions. Equipped with EBSD, CL, and EDX mapping capabilities, and a cryo specimen stage. The focussed ion beam (FIB) allows removing material so that cross-sectional imaging perpendicular to the surface is possible, as well as extracting FIB-made lammellae that can be subsequently inspected in a TEM microscope.
03

Transmission Electron Microscopy:
Two transmission electron microscopes (TEM), equipped with state-of-the-art imaging and chemistry detectors.

Thermo Fisher Talos F200X (STEM):
200 kV (S)TEM High-brightness X-FEG electron gun, high-resolution imaging up tot 1.1 Å, electron diffraction, electron tomography, and high-sensitivity 2D EDX chemical mapping (Super-X).

Thermo Fisher Spectra 300 (STEM):
30-300 kV (S)TEM. Double aberration corrected microscope with a variable acceleration voltage (30, 80, 200 and 300 kV), enabling high-resolution imaging up to 50 pm both in TEM and STEM imaging mode. Equipped with EDX spectrometry for chemical mapping, and ultra-high-resolution electron energy loss spectrometry (UHR-EELS) enabled by its double monochromator and Gatan Continuum filter. It also has a direct-direction Gatan K3 IS camera.
04

Electron Microprobe:
One high-resolution X-ray tomography microscope system with in situ experimental capabilities.

JEOL JXA-8530F Hyperprobe (EMP):
Field Emission Electron probe microanalyser, equipped with 5 WDS spectrometers, SDD ED system, CL system (panchromatic imaging and xCLent hyperspectral CL).
05

X-ray Microscopy:
One high-resolution X-ray tomography microscope system with in situ experimental capabilities.

Zeiss Xradia 620 Versa (µCT):
High-resolution X-ray tomography microscope system equipped with a 160kV high-energy, high-power microfocus X-ray source, several high-contrast detectors and a large flat panel detector as well as in situ experimental capabilities.

Equipment NanoSIMS Lab

01
CAMECA NanoSIMS 50:
Mass spectrometer is a state-of-the-art instrument that offers high-resolution imaging of isotope ratios with exceptional isotopic precision. It can achieve a lateral resolution as low as 50 nm. The NanoSIMS features the latest Cs+ and O- primary ion beams, making it capable of detecting all elements in the periodic table at comparable spatial resolutions. The instrument is employed to create element and isotope ratio maps.

Techniques

01
Nanoscale manipulation of earth materials:
The facility has strong expertise in the preparation of micrometre-sized specimens via FIB-SEM nanomanipulation techniques. Through this, site-specific samples across areas of interest on earth material surfaces can be prepared for subsequent investigation within a TEM. We also offer, to some extent, targeted nanomanipulation of samples for synchrotron-based nanoscale characterisation techniques and atom probe tomography.
02
Three-dimensional nanoscale visualisation:
UU has extensive knowledge in image acquisition, visualisation and interpretation for nanoscale-resolved, three-dimensional analysis of earth materials. These techniques encompass FIB-SEM and TEM-based tomography.
03
Crystallographic analysis of earth materials:
UU offers a quantitative characterisation of earth materials employing EBSD from various geological environments. A focus is on the study of deformed materials to determine, e.g., microscale failure mechanisms of rocks and their mineral constituents.
04
Automated crystallography and mineralogy:
UU hosts a state-of-the-art SEM and EMP infrastructure that is able to automatically analyse geological thin sections for its mineralogy, crystallography and microstructure at a high-throughput of up to one thin section-type sample per day.
05
Multi-scale imaging coupling electron and X-ray microscopy:
UU’s advanced imaging facilities allow for the integration of electron microscopy and X-ray tomography. This combination provides both three-dimensional and two-dimensional information on complex heterogeneous materials at various scales.
06
NanoSIMS:
The UU NanoSIMS facility offers complete measurement element and isotope ratio mapping services. User analysis is supported by an in-house built open-source software package. The most common analysis types are stable isotope probing using 13C, 15N, or 18O labeled tracers.

Processing and data acquisition software

Dragonfly, Avizo, Aztec, Esprit, Zen, Atlas, Velox, GMS3, STEMx, Donovan, Zeiss Reconstructor

Sample preparation

EM & X-ray centre:
Only Sample coating is provided at the EM & X-ray Centre. Samples must be prepared according to facility specification, prior to access of the facility.

NanoSIMS:
Depending on the type of sample, we can offer some final steps in the sample preparation, like fine polishing of embedded rock-like samples, sectioning of embedded biological samples (cells, tissues), and sample coating (gold, platinum, carbon). As this will be very project specific, sample preparation needs to be discussed prior to any measurements with the head of the facility.

Curious to learn more?

Interested in gaining access to the EXCITE2 facilities? Please enter your email address and be one of the first to be informed when we open the first EXCITE2 call for proposals. Other questions? Contact us here.

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