How to become a certified SEM user?

To become a "certified" SEM user, the user must go through mandatory training involving: two sessions of one-on-one SEM training with an operator, and nine hours of independent certified user usage (with assistance and supervision from an operator as needed). This will ensure that the user can operate the machine safely and responsibly. The total cost is $500 per user.  After certification, the cost for certified SEM user is $40/h.   

All "certified" users will need to be re-certified if he/she has not used the SEM for a minimum of 2 hours every month.

Due to the cost and time involved, we recommend certification only to frequent user and not occasional user of the SEM.  If the user only has a few samples to run once every 4 months, then it would be more cost-effective to the user to run this under Operator Service. 

Why we don't need a lot of sample for SEM analysis?

To our users with powder samples, we wish to remind them that one does not really need tons of samples to do SEM.  Powders should be uniformly spread over a 1 mm x 1 mm area (in a layer a few microns thick) and attached securely onto the carbon tape.  We definitely do not need powders spreading over an area larger than 1 mm x 1 mm and/or in a layer thicker than 10 microns.  Here, we should remember: LESS is MORE, b/c:

(a)  A finely focussed electron beam (<10 nm dia.) hitting any sample (especially the "gassy" ones) at high energy will cause local heating/interaction that leads to rapid gas desorption, which will cause the filament (sitting at the EHT voltage) to arc (the filament will not survive above 5x10-9 mB).  Field-emission filament will not be able to handle a lot of arcings like that, which will shorten its lifetime significantly.  So, the less samples that one uses, the more stable is the machine. 

(b)  Powder samples that are too thick (or not securely attached to the carbon tape) will also lead to partial charging.  This is b/c the electron beam typically penetrates a few microns, creating secondary electrons that are finding their way to the carbon tape.  If the sample is too thick, these secondary electrons stay inside the bulk and the sample will charge up, leading to bad images.  

(c)  More samples in the chamber will lead to a poorer vacuum, and it will take a longer time to pump the system down to the acceptable operating vacuum condition.  Less gas in the chamber and less gas desorption from the sample (as induced by the high-energy electron impact) will also improve image quality.

Making a reservation on a tool?

Upon certification, the user will be given instruction on how to make reservation on the tool using google calendar. 

Cancellation policy   We require at least 2 working days to cancel the reserved time slot, so that other user will have enough time to book the free-up time slots.  Do not cancel your reservation a few minutes or a few hours before the reserved time.  This is unacceptable and is inconsiderate to other users.  We are monitoring the reservation calendars at all time.  Any user caught not respecting the cancellation rule will have their booking privilege terminated permanently.

Walk-in   If you are unsure about whether your samples will be ready for the reserved time, try a "walk-in".  Check the calendar to see if the machine is free at the time.  If the machine is free, then you can walk in and use the tool until the next reserved time slot.  (You can register your booking on the calendar once you are in the lab and confirm that the tool is indeed free.)  In this way, you are not affecting other users.

What is WATLab?

As a result of the funding from the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario in the first CFI competition in 1999, we managed to establish an open-access, multi-user materials research and characterization facility dedicated for multi-mission research by academic and industrial users in Ontario and Canada.  The initial funding enabled us to acquire two unique tools: a VG ESCALab 250 and a LEO FE-SEM.  With enormous and continued support from local colleagues and elsewhere, we were able to secure further CFI funding in subsequent competitions.  WATLab has since evolved into one of the best materials research centres in North America, with a complete, unique set of tools second to none for advanced materials and nanoscience research.

Who is supporting WATLab?

Contrary to what WATLab may appear, WATLab is a facility run by my own group, and is not supported by local administrations.  Despite the impact of WATLab in facilitating advanced research and training at the University of Waterloo, we are really running on a shoestring budget and our financial security is precarious at best.  Despite this, we continue to do what we can to  provide on-campus service and support to all departments on a "partial" cost recovery basis.  We will assist other research groups in their research objectives to take advantage of this unique world-class facility for advanced research.