WATLab News Archive


 1 July 2022 - Clean room protocol remains in place While Waterloo has no longer mandated masks indoor, we observe that the clean-room protocol (mask up, gloves on, 2-m apart) has greatly improved the data quality of the measurement.  Masks and gloves help to minimize dust and/or moisture transfer to the sample while handling or mounting the sample.  They also keep the machine console area, particularly the keyboard and mouse, clean.  As such, WATLab will maintain the clean-room protocol until further notice.  We thank our users for their cooperation.

The large number of unclaimed/old samples on the blue cart will be trashed by July 15.  Please retrieve them before then.


 13 May 2022 - User samples overflowing There appears to be a large number of unclaimed samples on the blue cart (after the measurement).  Please pick these samples up as soon as possible as this is creating a health and safety concern.  We thank our users for their kind co-operation.


 18 March 2022 - WATLab switching to clean room protocol: As the COVID restrictions are being lifted in Ontario, we are switching to a new clean-room protocol at WATLab, which we found in the past two years has actually improved the cleanliness of our machines and our users' samples, resulting in better images and better quality data for the users.

  -  We continue to strongly encourage all our users (a) to stay 2 m apart if possible during any in-person interaction (our last defense against any air-borne virus) and (b) to stay away from the WATLab domain if not feeling well. 

  -  We no longer require the contact-tracing sign-in sign-out step, but we continue to ask all new users to check with Nina first before entering the WATLab domain. 

  -  We now allow the user to bring in at most one "spectator" during a user session (and everyone must follow the clean room protocol).  Remote OS via Teams or Meet is also available. 

We thank our users for their support and patience in keeping WATLab from any COVID outbreak in the past two years.  We ask for their continued cooperation and for their kindness and respect in treating fellow WATLab users.


Mandatory Clean-Room Protocol

Mask up, gloves on, and stay 2 m apart - at all times in WATLab. 


 18 January 2022 - In-person restart on January 24: We will restart in-person operation for the Ultra and Quanta on January 24.  The LEO will be on hold for a bit longer to see how the restart goes - please contact Nina if the LEO is needed.  All other services will be provided via remote OS.  In-person training will remain suspended.  As the COVID caseload has not really come down, we ask all our users to take extra care both on campus and off, to follow the safety protocols, and to minimize human interaction as much as possible while on site.


Mandatory Safety Protocol

1.  Mask up, gloves on, and stay 2 m apart - at all times in WATLab. 

2.  Avoid high-risk situations two weeks before the machine reservation time:  Do not attend any big gathering (with more than 10 people) or party or high risk places.  If the user has close contact with a potential carrier (i.e. less than 2 m for more than 15 minutes), then we would ask the user to self-quarantine for 14 days before coming in contact with the WATLab bubble.

3.  Upon arrival at WATLab, please fill out the hardcopy Wellness Survey form.  Please provide the log-in and log-out dates and times to facilitate contact tracing.

4.  Follow the check-in and check-out procedures, and observe all the safety rules.  Only one user per machine is allowed and so please do not bring anyone else.  WATlab will continue to maintain a low/safe lab occupancy limit for each space.



 5 January 2022 - In-person restart to be delayed until at least January 24: With the hospitalization rate rising rapidly now in the ROW and evidently widespread Omicron community transmission among asymptomatic individuals, WATLab is implementing a circuit-breaker delay of resuming in-person operation until January 24.  We thank our users for their patience and understanding, and we hope that our users could use the Remote OS to get their data in the meantime.


 3 January 2022 - Delaying in-person restart: As the Omicron-driven fifth wave is overpowering the local population, WATLab will delay resuming in-person operation until January 10 to allow time for our users to stabilize their life with Omicron after the long break.  (Remote OS will start on January 4.)  The best defense remains to be 2 m distancing with a good mask on, and we strongly encourage our users to avoid crowds and to double mask whenever possible.  WATLab will also suspend all in-person training until further notice.  We wish our users to take extra care during possibly the most dangerous time of the pandemic as we welcome the New Year (of the Water Tiger) with optimism and good tidings of luck and prosperity.


 17 December 2021 - Omicron-driven fifth wave: As we are entering the Omicron-driven fifth wave, we urge once more our users to take extra care on site and off.  While our users are getting in line for their third doses, the only remaining reliable defense is 2-m distancing with a good mask on.  We are encouraging our users to consider double-masking, as the structural integrity of the commonly used cloth mask will degrade after each wash and the pore size becomes larger and larger allowing the 100-nm virus to easily get through.  A good mask is one with multiple layers (at least 5+ layers), which can be easily achieved if we just insert a folded piece of Kleenex between the nose and the mask.  One can verify the effectiveness of any mask setup with a simple candle test.


WATLab will be closed for the holidays on Wednesday (Dec 22) at noon and reopened on January 4 (Tuesday).  We take this opportunity to wish our users a happy and healthy holiday break, and a prosperous new year.


 9 December 2021 - Quanta resuming normal operation: The engineer has returned today to install a new replacement high voltage unit, which seems to have resolved the communication and interlock problems.  Quanta will resume normal operation next week.


 29 November 2021 - Quanta update: On Oct 12, the Quanta ESEM has developed an interlock fault that did not allow the user to turn on the gun.  We have since been in contact with SFR and have arranged to have an engineer to come on site on Nov 2.  The engineer has determined that it could be the communication board on the high voltage control unit.  This is an expensive repair as it requires replacing the entire high voltage power supply and control unit.  A replacement high voltage unit was ordered and the engineer came back on Nov 26 to do the replacement.  Unfortunately, there was some issue with this high voltage unit as the engineer appeared to have difficulties making all the high voltage cable connections.  We concluded that they will need to send us a better unit.  We hope that this is the problem and that the incoming replacement unit can be installed smoothly.  We thank our users for their patience and understanding.


 12 November 2021 - Capacity limit and strict safety protocol remain in place  As UW and the province are relaxing restrictions, we are seeing some users beginning to take things less and less seriously.  We wish to remind all the users that Mandatory Safety Protocol remains in place at WATLab.  The number of test-positive cases among fully vaccinated people has been steadily increasing - now about 40-50%.  This means that COVID is very much alive and we must take extra precaution now as we enter the winter months and as people are becoming more and more complacent.  Please observe the following:


a.  User needs to submit the Wellness Survey to Nina and get her permission before coming on site.  This is important to maintaining our low/safe occupancy limit and to our contact tracing mechanism.

b.  User should be working alone and is not allowed to bring any other individual.  Remote communication with the user's group is possible via our existing Google Meet or MS Teams mechanism.  This is important to reduce the number of people on site so that we do not violate the occupancy limit.

c.  Please do not come on site just to chat or to discuss things with our staff in person.  Please use the remote consultation route via Google Meet or MS Teams.

d.  For those who have unknown vaccination status, it remains difficult for us to find a volunteer from our staff willing to risk his or her health for any in-person interaction.  Our staff do have rights, and none of us has the right to risk the safety of others.  Please use our remote service route.


Mandatory Safety Protocol

1.  Mask up, gloves on, and stay 2 m apart - at all times in WATLab. 

2.  Avoid high-risk situations two weeks before the machine reservation time:  Do not attend any big gathering (with more than 10 people) or party or high risk places.  If the user has close contact with a potential carrier (i.e. less than 2 m for more than 15 minutes), then we would ask the user to self-quarantine for 14 days before coming in contact with the WATLab bubble.

3.  Upon arrival at WATLab, please fill out the hardcopy Wellness Survey form.  Please provide the log-in and log-out dates and times to facilitate contact tracing.

4.  Follow the check-in and check-out procedures, and observe all the safety rules.  Only one user per machine is allowed and so please do not bring anyone else.  WATlab will continue to maintain a low/safe lab occupancy limit for each space.


 27 August 2021 - Vaccine mandate with proof of vaccination The UW admin has finally done the right thing and implemented a vaccine mandate with proof of vaccination for all users working on campus.  This has simplified our life and provided clarity and, we believe, will make everyone feel safer to be on campus and around people.  Despite the vaccination rate in ROW, the fourth wave is here to stay well into the fall.  As such, all COVID countermeasures must be maintained and Mandatory Safety Protocol remains in place.  WATLab will resume in-person training by mid September.  


 18 August 2021 - All users are required to follow the UW directive of self-declaration of vaccine status before coming in contact with the WATLab bubble The UW admin now appears to be asking those who come on campus to self-declare their vaccine status.  WATLab will follow this directive, and we will ask those who refuse to self-declare to get guidance from the UW admin before coming in contact with our staff and our existing user base (who are now fully vaccinated).  While the UW admin is finalizing their on-campus regulations for the fall term, we are suspending all in-person training until mid September.  We continue to encourage all potential WATLab users to do their part and to get vaccinated, as the ROW is trying to fight the fourth wave.


 4 August 2021 - All users are strongly encouraged to to follow the public health recommendations (including guidance on full vaccination) before coming on site by September 15 The case-load in ROW is finally coming down due to increased effort in vaccination (the recent surge is not just due to the Delta variant).  To protect all WATLab users and our staff moving forward, we strongly encourage all users to follow the public health recommendations (including the guidance on vaccination).  We continue to provide remote operator service to those who are not comfortable to come on site.


 10 June 2021 - WATlab resuming in-person training after July 1 As the Region of Waterloo has administered at least one shot to ~70% of its ~650k residents, we are planning to resume training after Canada Day for our users who have taken at least one COVID vaccine shot.   Remote operator service will continue to be provided to those users who do not feel comfortable to work on site.  Mandatory Safety Protocol remains in place.


 19 March 2021 - Spring is coming! The Region of Waterloo has thus far administered ~50k shots to less than 7% of its ~650k residents.  As the variants are much more deadly and more transmissible, they have significantly reduced the amount of time needed for an infection dose that could cause serious illness.  The ROW health unit is working overdrive to try to get us to herd immunity before the variants overwhelm us again in the third wave (now definitely in play).  We must help them, and we must maintain discipline.  Please adhere to the Mandatory Safety Protocol (below) and consider double-masking in high-risk places (e.g. grocery stores, anywhere outside ROW). 


 14 January 2021 - Essential work/research continues at WATLab during second SOE  WATLab remains open to support "essential research" during the second State of Emergency.  As it is unclear how long we will be allowed to maintain this posture, we advise all our users to  plan their work accordingly.  In addition to maintaining the below Mandatory Safety Protocol, we must now stay away from all human at all times while pursuing only work and essential survival activities both on and off campus.  We seek the help of all our users and ask them to follow the Mandatory Safety Protocol to protect themselves and us:


1.  Mask up, gloves on, and stay 2 m apart - at all times in WATLab.  [As the much more transmissible COVID variants are becoming more dominant, we ask everyone to consider "double-masking" to provide enhanced protection.]

2.  Avoid high-risk situations two weeks before the machine reservation time:  Do not attend any big gathering (with more than 10 people) or party or high risk places.  If the user has close contact with a potential carrier (i.e. less than 2 m for more than 15 minutes), then we would ask the user to self-quarantine for 14 days before coming in contact with the WATLab bubble.

3.  Upon arrival at WATLab, please take the Wellness Survey.

4.  Follow the check-in and check-out procedures, and observe the new safety rules.  Only one user per machine is allowed and so please do not bring anyone else.  WATlab will continue to maintain a low lab occupancy limit for each space.


 6 January 2021 - A new year with hope and optimism:  WATLab is resuming operations on January 11 with a lot of apprehension.  As the general public will not have access to the vaccines for another six months and the caseload surge continues to break records each week, we must assume that everyone is a carrier now.  We should be very nervous and we must act accordingly.  The best defense is to stay as far away as possible from all human.   All users must not take on any risky behaviour/event to keep WATLab from any outbreak.  If there is any doubt, we ask once again that the user to delay booking for two weeks.  Happy New Year and good data mining!


 13 December 2020 - Happy holidays:  WATLab will close for the holidays at 4 pm this Friday December 18 and will reopen on January 11.  With the vaccines now slowly coming online, all our safety protocols must remain in place in 2021 and at least for the next six months.  As we don't want our region to get downgraded to lockdown mode, we caution all our users not to gather or party during the holidays.  We take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and to thank all our users for following the rules and for keeping WATLab and everyone alive in this challenging time. 


 14 November 2020 - Circuit-breaker counter-measures:  COVID caseloads in the Waterloo region and all surrounding areas have skyrocketed to an unprecedented level.  To  keep WATLab open and to protect the WATLab user bubble, we ask those users who might have exposed to potentially high-risk activities to delay making machine reservation for two weeks.  High-risk activities are defined as gatherings of any kind with any person outside one's immediate day-to-day life bubble.  At this point, we must follow this lockdown-like countermeasure, and we should only go outside to do essential things (work, or buy food).  If the user has any doubt about his/her COVID-free status, we ask the user to err on the side of caution and to delay machine reservation for two weeks.  WATLab has relied on the honour system in the past 20 years and we hope that our users, more than ever, will do the right thing in this difficult time (and not put others at risk).  We thank our users for their continued cooperation. 


 3 October 2020 - Second wave:  The Province's case load has risen sharply and the case load for the Region of Waterloo has now reached that of late April.  To  keep WATLab open, we hope our users will keep up the good work of following the safety protocol.  More importantly, we should now maintain basic personal defensive measures that will not only protect ourselves but others as well.  These simple measures are:  wash hands often, mask up, stay 2 m apart, stay away from people in general, and don't go to non-essential places.  We thank our users for their kind  cooperation and continued support in this make-or-break time.


 1 September 2020 - Steady as she goes:  It has now been three weeks since the WATLab reboot.  Both the remote OS and in-person certified user service appear to be working well.  We are very grateful to our users who honour the "honour system" and have followed the new protocol, for the benefit of everyone in the WATLab domain.  The University will start a new term after Labour Day and all schools in the Waterloo region will reopen in the next two weeks or so. This will be the critical test of our resolve of maintaining our discipline in protecting ourselves and everyone in this interesting time in human history.  Please let us know if there is any operational improvement that we could do to make life easier. 


 10 August 2020 - WATLab resuming operation:  After 20 weeks of lock-down, we finally have permission to reopen WATLab under strict safety protocols.  Ontario has entered a critical period of phase 3 reopening and we must remain vigilant in the next few months.  We seek the help of all our users and ask them to take the following Mandatory Safety Protocol to protect themselves and us:


1.  Mask up, gloves on, and stay 2 m apart - at all times in WATLab.

2.  Avoid high-risk situations two weeks before the machine reservation time:  Do not attend any big gathering (with more than 10 people) or party or high risk places.  If the user has close contact with a potential carrier (i.e. less than 2 m for more than 15 minutes), then we would ask the user to self-quarantine for 14 days before coming in contact with the WATLab bubble.

3.  Download, install, and activate the contact tracing app (COVID Alert) by Health Canada.

4.  Take Wellness Survey here.

5.  Upon arrival at WATLab, follow the check-in and check-out procedures, and observe the new safety rules.  (Only one user per machine is allowed and so please do not bring anyone else).


As we can only operate under strict restrictions imposed by the Safety Office, this is not business as usual.  Any user found in violation of the above will be suspended for one year and the user's entire group will also be suspended for one year.  In the past 20 years, WATLab has tried not to create a lot of rules (red tapes), and we have been relying on the honour system.  We believe most of our users are responsible individuals, and they will, we hope especially now, do the right thing in this challenging time.


Booking calendars are back up.  Please contact Nina for further help or info.  Good luck, and happy data mining!


 8 August 2020 - Health Canada:  The Health Canada COVID Alert app is now live.  We will require all users to install and activate this app, as this will help with contact tracing.  We thank our users for doing their parts to protect themselves and the WATLab bubble in order to assure safety of everyone.


 1 August 2020 - An update:  As soon as UW declared that they would allow researchers to return to work, WATLab has submitted on May 25 a request for our staff to return to work and to reopen services.  After five revisions and one virtual meeting with a manager in the UW Safety Office, we were told yesterday that our case will now be handled by the Science Safety Office.  This is most infuriating.  There are clearly serious issues with the UW Safety Office and the way the reopening is handled at UW.  At this point, I don't have a lot of confidence in the system, and so the user should explore services provided by the admin-supported qnc clean-room (they are open).  To our loyal users, please contact Nina and we shall see if we could get the data of urgent samples at first opportunity.  We may be able to do "remote OS" with Google Meet or Microsoft Teams (whereby the user could see remotely what is on the screen while our operator runs the tool).  We thank our users for their continued support and their patience.


 24 June 2020 - WATLab starting back up:  Ontario has again extended the State of Emergency to July 15.  Fortunately the University has started to prepare to allow some research labs to reopen under strict conditions.  As the users are taking steps to return to work, we are accepting samples under OS.  If the user has urgent samples now, please contact Nina for options.  We will arrange to have staff run these samples at first opportunity.  [During the lockdown, our staff has been keeping an eye on all the machines and as such all systems at WATLab are fully operational to specs.]


In the meantime, we have also developed a new mechanism to allow the user to engage the certified user service under strict public health guidelines.  To satisfy the Safety Office's requirement of physical distancing and reduced lab occupancy, only one certified user (with no companion) will be allowed per machine at one time.  As soon as the user is allowed to return to work by the University (and the Safety Office), the user can fill out the WATLab Wellness Survey and follow the new procedure when accessing WATLab services.  One important WATLab safety requirement is that all users are mandated to wear masks and gloves at all times at WATLab.  Take Wellness Survey here.  We thank all our users for their patience and support, and we look forward to serving our users in-person once again.


 6 June 2020 - WATLab remains closed and continues to prepare for the return to work:  Ontario has just extended the State of Emergency orders for another 10 days to June 19 (with the State of Emergency already extended to June 30).  We are hopeful that Ontario's cautious approach to reopening will allow the University to return to work before Canada Day.


 30 May 2020 - WATLab is gearing up to re-start:  Ontario has kept extending the State of Emergency orders, this time to June 9.  The University appears to start planning to allow some researchers back on campus.  WATLab has begun recertifying all the machines in preparation for the restart.  In the meantime, we again encourage our users to begin getting some gloves and masks (Waterloo T&T sells basic masks) as wearing gloves and masks will likely be our new modus operandi at WATLab in the foreseeable future.


16 May 2020 - WATLab is looking forward to re-opening:  Ontario has again extended the State of Emergency orders to May 29 (by 3 more weeks).  There is, however, some hopeful sign that the Province may be more serious about reopening.  The University admin also appears to be thinking about what to do next.  Until the SoE is lifted and a clear message from the admin re reopening research labs, WATLab will remain closed.  In the meantime, we encourage our users to begin collecting some masks and gloves, as it is clear that we will need to treat WATLab like any public places by requiring all users to wear masks and gloves on site.


 24 Apr 2020 - WATLab remains closed until SoE campus lockdown is lifted:    Ontario has declared a State of Emergency on March 17, which has been extended to May 12 (i.e. for a total of 8 weeks).  We anticipate that even if the University is allowed to reopen, strict restrictions will be put in place.  As WATLab has relied on the honour system for its operations in the past two decades, we are asking our users to observe self-imposed personal safety protocols (i.e. limit and reduce the circle of person-to-person exposure).  This will help to protect all our users and our staff.  Our users should also be prepared for some additional operational protocols (e.g. wearing masks and gloves) at WATLab when we are allowed to get back to work.  As we anticipate these masks and gloves are going to be required for most public places and will be in high demand, we ask our users to begin securing these items at first opportunity.  WATLab is anxious to reopen and to jump-start all important research endeavours, and we shall do so safely as soon as the administration lifts the lock-down.


 18 Mar 2020 - WATLab closed at noon on March 20 due to COVID-19 campus lockdown:    As per the VP Research's directive today, WATLab will be closed at noon on this Friday (March 20).  All services will be suspended until further notice.


 13 Mar 2020 - COVID-19 countermeasure:    The University has suspended in-person classes today but has decided not to shut down the entire campus.  As such, WATLab remains open.  We do ask all of our users to take one simple precautionary step in this challenging time.  Upon arrival on site at WATLab, the user should do a good hand-washing at the nearest bathroom (in C2 basement) before engaging the machines and coming in contact with any of the WATLab surfaces (e.g. keyboards and mice, SEM stub holders, etc.).  We also have hand sanitizers near all the instruments, if this is more convenient.  This simple step will help to keep WATLab a virus-free zone.  Please stay home and do not come to campus if you are not feeling well.  Thank you for your cooperation.


 3 Jan 2020 - WATLab to resume normal service on Jan 6    We welcome back all our users and we wish everyone a prosperous New Year!  Happy data mining.



 16 Dec 2019 - WATLab to close for Christmas on Dec 20    WATLab will close for the Christmas holidays at 4 pm on Friday Dec 20 and will reopen at 9 am on Monday Jan 6.  We take this opportunity to thank our users for their continued kind support and we wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.  May the year 2020 bring our users the greatest of happiness, best of luck, and tons of exciting data! 


 5 Nov 2019 - SEMs coming back on line    Replacement part for the QUANTA has arrived and has been installed on Nov 4.  We have started normal operation on Nov 5.  On both the ULTRA and LEO, new sources have been installed and they should further improve image quality.  To give time for the new sources to stabilize, we ask the user not to set EHT above 15 kV (EDX quantification will work fine at 15 kV) for both the ULTRA and LEO until further notice.  We thank our users for their patience.  Happy data mining!


 2 Nov 2019 - Update on LEO, Ultra, Quanta   LEO:  We have an engineer on site since Wed Oct 27, to try to resolve the long-standing gun chamber vacuum issue in the LEO.  A new FE source has now been installed and the column has been aligned.  We could set the EHT up to 10 kV today and will gradually ramp up to 20 kV  in the next 3 weeks.   When the LEO is open for service, we ask our users to please not go above 10 kV or we could lose the FE source.  The Zeiss FE source is very expensive and it typically costs $10 k alone.  If we include the labour cost, then I have to sell my car to just (barely) pay for this..  ULTRA:  We also ask the engineer to take the opportunity to investigate the increasingly frequent system trip issue in the Ultra and he determined that we probably need a new FE source.  He started replacing the source this morning, and we expect that it will take at least 3 days.  Assuming things go well, we will need to allow the gun region to outgas properly and the  machine to stabilize before we could see if the machine is alive or not.  We will make this determination by Thursday.  QUANTA:  The quanta part (a pressure controlled valve to enable chamber venting) has finally been shipped from Japan on Oct 28 and we are hoping that it will arrive sometime this coming week.  Then, we will see if we could install this valve and restart service.  As always, we appreciate the understanding and patience of our users.  If the machine god is on our side and everything is successful, then the up-side is that all the SEMs will be working great and the images will be fantastic.


 25 Oct 2019 - Update on Quanta - The Electron Shop has just been informed by the supplier that because the valve is coming from Japan, it will take an extra week.  The anticipated delivery date is Nov 4.  We apologise for the inconvenience and we thank our users for their patience.


 3 Oct 2019 - Quanta down for about 2 weeks  - One of the valves in the pressure manifold in the Quanta has blown.  The Electronics Shop has ordered a valve and it is expected to be here in ~2 weeks.  We shall try to repair the system as soon as the part arrives.  Sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.


 18 Apr 2019 - Rate hike for the TEM and FIB  - The transfer of the management of the TEM and FIB from WATLab to QNC Clean Room by UW central administration has resulted in rate increases for the tool-time to $50/h (from $40/h) for the TEM and to $100/h (from $60/h) for the FIB.  WATLab is still allowed to provide OS service to our users using the new rates for these tools (our staff rate remains unchanged at $40/h) and unfortunately every minute must now be accounted for because of the Badger tool log-in system.  It is important for our users to recognise that WATLab has not increased its rate since inception almost 20 years ago. This rate increase is due to change in management of these tools, as we have to unfortunately pass the cost of using these tools (the new tool-time rate) onto our users.


 15 Feb 2019 - No more recycled SEM stubs in the sample prep area  - Some users appear to be recycling old SEM stubs (with other users' samples on them) found in the sample prep hood in C2-060.  As some of these samples could contain poisonous materials and there is also a real likelihood of cross contamination, we are asking all the users to take their own stubs back to their lab after their SEM session and to safely dispose (or recycle) these stubs in their own lab.  As this is a general safety issue for all users, we ask for your kind cooperation.


Users can buy new SEM stubs and new stub storage boxes online from the www.tedpella.com  [look for standard Zeiss SEM stubs - P/N 16111 or 16111-9 (pin mount 12.7 mm x 3.2 mm)].  Alternatively, WATLab does sell a box of 12 stubs (at $30 each kit) on site. Please contact Nina, Lei or Joseph.


 29 Jan 2019 - Calendar  - As we appear to have a backlog on the Ultra, we ask the users to please be respectful of the calendar.  Removing the reservation less than 24 hours will not help other users to use the released time slots.  Please do not reserve the machine unless the sample is actually ready.  Users who have repeatedly disregard the booking rule will be suspended indefinitely. Thank you for your cooperation.


  15 Jan 2019 - New beginning  - By late summer 2019, WATLab would have provided materials analysis independently for almost two decades ago at Waterloo.  We have been fortunate to have opportunities to set up one of the best toolsets for advanced materials research in the world.  Despite the various things going on in 2018, WATLab will continue to serve our loyal users for as long as we could.  At the science/technology level, we are always curious about the work of our users and how the present toolset can be used to advance the goal of our users, i.e. from better data to better publications.  Please contact Nina, Lei and Joseph for more info.


Starting in Feb 2019, we will begin streamlining operation of the quanta FEG in our continued effort to reduce cost.  We ask our quanta users to plan a bit ahead in booking time on the machine.


We take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year and great data mining to come.


 17 Dec 2018 - Happy New Year   - As we survive a difficult 2018, we look forward to a better year to come.  We thank our users for their continued kind support of WATLab and we wish our users a happy and safe holiday and best of luck and success in the Year of the Pig.

 6 Dec 2018 - Quanta FEG second new source installed - resuming normal operation   - The second new source has been installed last week and the Quanta appears to perform normally.  Please reserve the system using the appropriate google calendar.  Happy data mining.


 21 Nov 2018 - Quanta FEG off line   - Unfortunately, the new source installed a couple of weeks ago did not last long.  SFR has requested a new source to be shipped immediately and will install it as soon as possible, likely by mid next week.  We thank our users for their understanding and patience.


14 Nov 2018 - LEO FEG down  - The electron source in the LEO SEM has been experiencing a lot of problems lately.  LEO users should contact Nina for alternate SEM services.  Both the Ultra and Quanta are working OK.


8 Nov 2018 - Quanta FEG service is complete - Resuming normal operation  - This service has replaced the 3 years old FE source and a high voltage cable-connector assembly.  We will need to find some cash to eventually replace the five Pt apertures (which will become dirty with use).  The images are excellent now.  Happy data mining.


This service has created a big dent in our budget ($60k). Depending on the current usage of the Quanta, we could conserve filament life (and reduce operating cost) by running the tool every other week (except for emergency situation).  We will start this operating mode after Christmas.  We ask the user to please plan a little bit ahead and watch the booking calendar.


 1 Nov 2018 - Quanta FEG service in progress  - The service engineer is on site this week and has started working on replacing the FE source.  More update later.


 18 Oct 2018 - Quanta FEG down for source replacement  - After running for over 3 years, the FE filament in the Quanta has died.  All quanta users should contact Nina or Lei for alternative solution.  We are in the process of getting service to see if we could replace this quickly.


  26 Jan 2018 - New beginning  - This year, we will be trying to bring the Raith Ion Beam Lithography system on line and into user service.  The Ion Beam Lithography system is one of the very few such systems in the world, and it adds unique capabilities not found in conventional lithography tools (such as EBL).  Currently, the source of this unique system is somewhat unstable and the manufacturer is trying hard to stabilize operation.  The LEO appears to be stable at 20 kV and some users have begun to use the Nabity EBL system again.  We encourage users with high outgassing samples to try out the Environmental SEM, with a very easy-to-use EDS system.  We are also accepting samples for TEM and FIB runs.  We are looking forward to an exciting year and wish the users best of luck with their work in the coming months!


 15 Dec 2017 - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  - As WATLab must transition to a totally self-sufficient operating model in an increasingly challenging environment in the next two years, we are grateful to have the support of our loyal users.  In the past several months, some of the our machines have clearly shown their age and experienced unforeseen downtime intermittently.  We thank our users for their patience and their understanding while we struggle to fix these systems without a service contract.  The University will close by Dec 22, and we take this opportunity to wish our users the merriest holiday season, the best of luck in their research endeavour, and prosperous data mining to come in 2018! 


 10 Nov 2017 - LEO resuming user service  - We are bringing the LEO back online and into user service.  The probe current is lower than spec but it is extremely stable (with variation less than 5%).  The image quality is also good.  Please limit the EHT to not greater than 15 kV (as anything higher than 15 kV could cause arcing and kill the gun).  As we will be resetting the user data base, please see Nina or Lei if you experience any problem logging on.  We thank you for your cooperation and for your patience during the past several difficult months as we tried to fix this SEM. 


30 Oct 2017 - Removing users not showing up - As the Ultra is becoming rather busy lately, we wish to remind all users to show up at the reserved time.  Please remove your booking at least 24 hours before the reserved time (if your sample is not ready), so as to allow other users enough time to rebook the released time.  Please be considerate to your fellow users, whose works are just as important and as urgent as yours.  We have begun to remove access privilege from users whom we have not been able to convince to adhere to the reserved booking.  We thank you for your cooperation. 


26 Oct 2017 - LEO returning to user service, maybe? - The LEO suffered a filament loss in July - this was the shortest filament lifetime that this machine has experienced, about 5 months.  The cause appeared to be a very tiny leak just above the column valve (V3).  Various attempts have been made to fix this leak.  To minimize the effect of this tiny leak on the filament, we have also rebuilt the ion pump in the gun chamber to try to increase local pumping in this region (which has caused a substantial delay).  A new filament was activated on Tuesday, and we are currently running some stability tests.  If the source is stable, we will release the machine for user service hopefully by Nov 2.  We thank our loyal users for their patience during this challenging time.


7 July 2017 - LEO down for the next four weeks - Other SEMs available - During the filament change of the LEO in June, we have encountered a tricky vacuum problem in the gun.  The engineer returned this week but the problem remained unresolved.  We will need to acquire some more parts before we could go further.  This unfortunately will take some time (4-8 weeks).  In the meantime, all SEM users are encouraged to contact Nina re use of the Ultra (ultrahigh resolution SEM) or Quanta (Environmental SEM), as appropriate.  Some users will require additional training (from Nina for the Ultra, and from Lei for the Quanta).  For the EBL users who depend on the LEO Nabity EBL system, we are releasing the Merlin (state-of-the-art SEM) with advanced Fibics NPVE nanofabrication tool.  Lei is in the final stage of making the workflow more robust.  Please contact him for training.  We apologise for any inconvenience and we hope the current EM solution will help to advance the research of our loyal users.


 31 May 2017 - Charge compensation in ESCALab - The Thermo engineer has resolved the charge compensation problem in the ESCALab.  The system is now close to spec and capable of handling insulating samples.  Highly outgassing samples (containing S and/or P) remain a challenge for XPS facilities and UHV systems in general., because S will corrode the lens elements over time, rendering the electron optics ineffective.  With the assistance of a few user groups, we are developing a few pre-analysis sample cleaning protocols to see if we can at least reduce this type of contamination issues.


 31 May 2017 - High kV problem in LEO - The engineer is scheduled to be on site by mid June  to see if we can resolve the high kV arcing problem.  Please hang tight.  In the meantime, we encourage the users to try out the ESEM and/or the Ultra.


21 Feb 2017 - Calendar booking becoming unreliable - We have noticed that an increasing number of users signed up the tool but failed to show up.  This is unacceptable, because the no-show booking is blocking another user from using the machine.  Some deleted their bookings a few hours or a few minutes before the reserved time slots and hoped that no one noticed.  Well, we do notice, and we are keeping track of who is doing this.  Those who continue to disregard the honour system will soon lose their machine privilege.  Please consult the WATLab FAQ  regarding booking cancellation policy.

If you are not sure whether your samples will be ready at the time of your booking, we suggest that you do not book ahead.  Instead, you should try a "walk-in", i.e. check if the machine is free at the time you wish to use the tool and if it's free, then you can just go ahead and use it until the next reserved time.  If you make a reservation on the calendar, we and all other users expect you to show up. 


10 Feb 2017 - LEO resuming  normal operation -  Ultra resuming limited operation - The FE source in the LEO has been replaced and the system appears to be functioning close to spec.  There is a minor change to the setup.  The EDS system still needs some calibration (use at your own risk) but the SEM imaging is good.  Please see one of WATLab staff before startup. 

For the Ultra, the on-going instability problem has been narrowed down to the mechanical joystick.  We have engaged the "soft joystick" to move the stage.  Please see one of WATLab staff before startup.  Ultra has also been upgraded to Windows7 and the latest version of SmartSEM (V 6.0).  Please report any issues to Nina or Lei. 


24 Jan 2017 - LEO system down - After 2.9 year, the FE source in the LEO is finally gone.  We have contacted the engineer and help is on its way.  Hopefully, we can get this back up as soon as possible.  Please watch this space for further news.  In the meantime, please see if your work can take advantage of the environmental SEM. 



11 Jan 2017 - Happy New Year ! - WATLab remains Canada's premier advanced materials research lab that supports multi-mission research with state-of-the-art and unique tools.  WATLab will try to survive better this year under an increasingly hostile local operating climate.  We don't expect significant changes to our toolset this year, except to bring the new Raith IonLine system online and into user service.  This is Canada's first and only ion beam lithography system (one of just a handful in the world) and we hope to enable new device sciences with this new tool.  We will also try to resolve ongoing stability issues with the Ultra and to complete system upgrades for the ESCAlab.

We thank our loyal users for their continued support, and we wish them a fantastic year of discovery and lots of great data to come! 

5 Dec 2016 - ESCA and Microlab  upgrades in progress
- The engineer is on site to upgrade the data systems for both the ESCALab and MicroLab to W7.  As with all upgrades and maintenance, there is always a risk.  These systems will be unavailable until further notice. - Please contact Jung Soo or Lei. 

1 Dec 2016 - Ultra PC  upgraded with new SmartSEM - The Ultra PC has been upgraded and we now have the latest version of SmartSEM installed - all in preparation for commissioning correlative microscopy.  We are in the process of reestablishing all the SEM user accounts - Please contact Nina.


10 Nov 2016 - Quanta FEG environmental SEM fully operational - The FEI Quanta FEG has been on line and fully operational for nearly a year.  This system has full SSD EDS system and the image quality is excellent because of the FE source.  We encourage all the users with highly outgassing materials (such as porous materials or loose powders) to get trained on this machine  - Please contact Lei or Nina.


1 Nov 2016 - New Correlative Light - Electron Microscopy coming to the Ultra - The new correlative light microscopy system along with the unique Shuttle&Find system has been delivered and is expected to be installed in 2-3 weeks.  This upgrade will allow us to correlate polarization and fluorescence LM info with detailed EM info.


25 May 2016 - New SSD-based EDS system coming to the LEO - An Oxford Xmax SSD EDS system is on order and will replace our 15 years old EDAX system.  We expect to commission this as soon as possible within the next 2 months.  With the SSD, there is no need for liquid nitrogen and we hope the s/w will be more user friendly.  Some quick re-training will be needed.


21 April 2016 - All tools are up.  Happy data mining - Service was performed for both the LEO and Ultraplus SEMs. EBL users of the LEO should be aware that the beam is now much better aligned and they may need to do appropriate beam calibration.  A new filament has been installed in the Ultraplus and the tool will be released if it passes the stability and performance tests.   Image quality has been improved significantly for both SEMs. 


 30 September 2015 - WATLab new PROMO launched  -  See WATLab Primer.  And, take a virtual tour with us, let's go to WATLab Virtual Tour 480p or  YouTube.


8 January 2016 - All tools are up.  Happy data mining -  Happy New Year!


 1 October 2015 - WATLab promotion - new low rates for SEM and other tools for the present cycle -  For more details, please see current WATLab Newsletter.


 10 July 2015 - Ultraplus resuming normal operation  - The Ultraplus issues have been resolved, and EDX has been calibrated.  As a general operating procedure, please always exit the EDX software FIRST, before logging out SmartSEM.  We are resuming normal operation..


15 June 2015 - FEI Quanta Feg 250 Environmental SEM now on line  - The new environmental SEM is now online and a few users have used it and it appears to be working well. For users who may wish to use this, please discuss this with Lei for training.


 1 June 2015 - Ultra on limited operation  - We have determined that the "lock-up" problem is likely due to overheating in the Mains PCB in the Ultra.  A temporary fix is in place.  The machine is now put back in user service while we monitor the system.  Please discuss this with Nina if you wish to book time on this machine.  We thank you for your continued patience.


 13 March 2015 - Canada's first IBL system to begin installation today  - Commissioning of Canada's first ion beam lithography (IBL) system has began this week.  Manufactured by Raith, this IBL tool will allow true 3D nanofabrication and nanolithography over a large write-field with an impressive ultrahigh spatial resolution of sub-10 nm.  Like the Helium Ion Microscope (and a few other tools in WATLab), this is a unique tool in Canada (with just one other older system in southern U.S. and less than 10 in the rest of the world). This tool will provide us and all Canadian users new capabilities to begin constructing novel 3D quantum devices at the nanoscale.  This tool is made possible with funding from CFI, Government of Ontario, and University of Waterloo.  Installation is expected to go on in the next 5-10 days.


 11 March 2015 - New ESEM to be installed in early April  - We are preparing our site for installation of a new FEI Quanta FEG 250 system.  This environmental SEM will allow us to look at "wet" samples and we expect to begin installation by early April.


  12 Jan 2015 - Happy New Year!  - The EDX detector has been fixed and reinstalled.  Please contact Nina if you want to use EDX in the near future.


  22 Dec 2014 - Merry Christmas and All the Best in 2015 !  - The EDX detector has been repaired and we will reinstall it back in the LEO in the new year.  In late January, WATLab will be installing a new Environmental SEM system, which will enable our users to look at materials with a high vapour pressure.  We will also be commissioning a Canada's first Ion Beam Lithography system (one of just 10 systems in the world) very soon.  This IBL system will allow us to write 3D nanostructures over a large write-field (mm) at 10 nm or less resolution.  We look forward to exciting new science to be achieved with these new tools.  We take this opportunity to thank our users for their patience and understanding during the various tool commissioning at qnc this past year, and hope to have their continued support in 2015.


 27 Nov 2014 - EDX problem update  -  We have sent the EDX detector out for repair and it is undergoing system testing to assure that it meets specifications.  We expect that it will be shipped back to us in early December.  We thank you for your patience and understanding in this matter.


 17 Sep 2014 - EDX problem update  -  We are running some more tests on our recent EDX problem.  We are also pursuing a plan B in the event that we could not fix the EDX system.  Those users who urgently need EDX analysis can talk to Nina.  We thank you for your patience and understanding in this matter.


  24 June 2014 - LEO resuming normal operation  -  We finally resolved the pressure burst issue, and the LEO will be back in service effective immediately.  Please respond any issue to Nina.  We thank you for your patience.


  23 May 2014 - LEO to resume partial operation on Monday  -  We could only partially rescue the machine and we need to get some spare parts in order to complete the repair.  In the meantime, the machine can be used under strict "supervised" conditions to prevent further problems.  Please get hold of Yao, Lei or Nina before you load and unload your samples during your reserved time slot.  Thank you for your cooperation.


  21 May 2014 - LEO to resume normal operation on Friday  -  Service from Zeiss Canada had created more problems for the LEO after their service and basically broke our system last week.  We introduced our countermeasure to rescue the system.  If all goes well, LEO will be back in operation tomorrow on 22 May 2014.


  12 May 2014 - Zeiss to fix LEO gun column issues  -  LEO 1530 will be down till mid next week. to allow the engineer to fix the gun column issue related to arcing above 10 kV.


9 May 2014 - WATLab website update complete  -  Next update in 2 months.


24 February 2014 - WATLab to begin TEM/FIB service on March 3 at qnc-Metrology  -  The newly commissioned TEM & FIB will be put online on March 3.  Please contact us for further details.


5 February 2014 - WATLab is extending services into the QNC -  The LEO 1530 SEM is now back on line, after a new filament install.  We will gradually reinstate SEM operation back in qnc B707.  Please note that due to security concern, all space in qnc Metrology will be monitored online with hidden camera. 


After many years of trying to get a TEM on campus, we have finally succeeded in securing a high-performance 200 kV TEM.  The Zeiss Libra 200 MC has been installed before Christmas and we have been doing extensive machine physics studies on the machine while trying to resolve a number of ongoing issues in the building.   We will be gradually rolling out TEM service.  Our rate will be very competitive compared to similar nearby facilities.


13 December 2013 - WATLab is scheduled to shut down for the Christmas break  on 20 Dec 2013 noon - WATLab had an interesting year, with much of tool installation (including the TEM and FIB at qnc Metrology) now behind us.  We will soon in the new year begin putting some of these tools online.  In the meantime, WATLab wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday, and all the best for 2014.



1 November 2013 - SEM Status Update- Both the LEO and Ultra have been down for the past several weeks due to various failure.  We now have an service engineer on site to resolve these issues.  If all goes well, we hope to put at least one of the systems back in service very soon.


18 September 2013 Internet policy in WATLab - After taking the LEO back online for just 2 weeks or so, we observed some unusual behaviour with LEO's User PC.  This could be a hidden virus and we are investigating...

From now on, NO user is allowed to use any of the WATLab's PCs to connect to the web.  If a user gets caught in doing this, he/she will be denied access permanently!  I think it is of interest to all users to try to keep WATLab's computers clean b/c if one user starts to import virus onto a WATLab's computer, it will spread to all the PCs of our entire user base.  This is not good for us or for all of our users.   I suggest all users to bring their own laptops and use the wifi.  Again, no activity other than data transfer is allowed on any of the WATLab's computers.  Zero tolerance. 

Very soon... we will bolt down the usb key security issue.  If you are not sure how clean your usb key is, please ask us and we will provide  a free blank CD to burn your data.   USB key is now the most vulnerable security risk in our entire data transfer protocol.  Thank you.


6 September 2013 Ultra stage broken - A user dropped the sample holder onto the stage, which broke the Y motion drive, rendering the entire SEM useless.  The UltraPlus SEM will be down until further notice.  This will be an expensive repair. 

As a temporary measure, we are reactivating the relocated LEO service (now with EDX support) - EBL feature will take a little bit longer.  

Please note that for safety reason, we will be remotely monitoring the activity in the qnc B707 via an IP camera from C2.  The live feed will be password protected and will not be recorded.  This setup will allow us to run to rescue the user quickly (from C2), should some accident occurs.


5 July 2013 qNC metrology tool deployment update- After much anticipation and delays, we finally have power and the essential services in the qNC Metrology Lab.  At last, we are in a position to begin tool deployment.  We expect that the environmental conditions to be far from ideal and not to spec as there continue to be some issues with various support systems in the building.  We are trying to work out these bugs with the renno folks.

If all goes well, we are hoping that the SEM, FIB, SAXS, XRD (new powder XRD tool), and SQUID will be online by mid August, at which time we will begin commissioning of the TEM.  The TEM installation is a big job as there will be new optics and new EDX detector installed on site.  The AFM and optical microscope fleet are expected to be online by late September (once the renno for the respective labs are ready).

In the meantime, we are business as usual here at WATlab.  Have a nice summer and happy data mining!  


31 May 2013 - Just one day after the Shops have rebuilt the sample holder for the Ultra, it has been destroyed!  We are extremely unhappy about this.  There are now some users with a heavy hand among us and they are destroying everything.  I'm going to conduct on-the-spot random testing of all the users.  Careless users will have the access privilege of himself/herself and members of his/her entire group suspended immediately.  A sample holder costs about $10k from Zeiss.  We just could not collect enough user fees to pay for this type of careless use from one or a few bad users.


The hood for sample preparation and the SEM bench area are becoming quite untidy with carbon tape and dirty gloves everywhere.  Please clean up the SEM bench area and the hood area after each session (regardless of whether you use it or not).   If we all do this simple tidying-up, everyone's life will be a bit better.  It only takes a minute or two to pick up after oneself.  There will be a cleaning fee equivalent to 1 hr SEM if these areas are left untidy for the next user.


6 April 2013 - WATLab has extended the SEM service for those hard workers (and experienced users!) who want to do data mining on Saturday morning.  Please note that this time slot will be opened as long as I'm on site to open the lab door.  I'll block off time if I don't plan to be on site.  Please check the booking calendar before showing up.  Tong


3 January 2013 - Happy New Year!  May 2013 bring all our users happiness in life and in research.  
We look forward to the installation of the long-awaited TEM (as soon as the renovation is completed in the various labs in the qNC domain).  We have also expanded our nanomachining capability at WATLab - see UW Seal with the smallest feature size of 5 nm - perhaps a world record - written by a helium ion beam.


11 September 12 - LEO now off-line:   TheLEO 1530 is now off-line.  We will try to reactivate the system as soon as possible, upon its relocation to the QNC building.  As a temporary measure, we will train one "senior user", designated by each group,  to use the new UltraPlus SEM now fully operational at WATLab.  We will continue to provide OS service during this hopefully short period.  Thank you for your understanding.


28 August 12 - SEM shutdown on September 8:   We now have a firm date (September 8) that we will temporarily shut down and store the LEO 1530 till its relocation to  the QNC building.  As we have not been told a definite QNC move-in date, we are unsure how long this shut down will last, hopefully no more than 3 weeks.  Please plan your work accordingly.  In the meantime, we will provide OS SEM service on our other WATLab systems.


2 August 12 - Anticipated SEM shutdown in mid September:   As the new QNC building is slowly coming online, we are planning to re-establish the SEM operation there, which will result in the loss of service for about one month.  While we will try to minimize service interruption as much as possible, we are advising all users to plan a bit ahead and do your samples now!  Relocating a machine is always a tricky business and sometimes it could unearth unexpected issues.


27 June 12 - SEM down till Monday:  We are experiencing some computer issues with the SEM.  We have recovered the system but will need the next two days to stabilize operation and to do some much needed system maintenance and backup.   If all goes well, we will resume normal operation on Monday July 2.


4 June 12 *** State-of-the-art ION-TOF SIMS-5 system now fully operational:  We have successfully completed full commissioning of the new state-of-the-art ION-TOF Static SIMS system, equipped with Canada's first argon cluster source.   The new Ar cluster source enables precise sputtering of organic films without introducing significant interlayer mixing and matrix effects.  This will be particularly powerful for organic layer and biomaterial characterization. 


WATLab will be accepting SIMS samples on OS basis by July 1.


WATLab is now accepting HIM samples on OS basis.  If you have samples, please contact Lei.


WATLab will begin tool deployment of the FIB and TEM hopefully in July.  If the QNC building move-in date is on schedule, then we expect both tools to be fully commissioned before the end of September.   Same deployment schedule is expected for the SQUID and other tools.


1 May 12 *** EBL & EDX imaging back to normal operation:  We have traced these problems to a bad switch.   Both techniques should now work properly.


3 Apr 12 *** EBL taken off line until further notice  We are experiencing image blackout with the EDX system.  A possible cause could be some sort of communication protocol conflicts between the EDX and EBL systems.  To investigate this further, we need to take the EBL system off line, fix the EDX and then wait and see if this problem occurs again.   If you are using the EBL system, we apologise for the inconvenience.  We encourage you to use the QNC EBL system in the meantime.


12 Jan 12 *** Update on QNC tool acquisition and deployment:  See message sent to WIN membership via WIN office on 3 Jan 12.- For more info, please contact Tong.


28 Apr 11 *** SEM resuming normal operation on 3 May 2011  A solid state relay on the vacuum board was found to be malfunctioning, which blocked the power up sequences of the foreline and  turbo pumps.  Jacek was able to replace this relay and we will be conducting machine physics for the rest of this week.  WATLab will resume normal SEM operation on Tuesday, May 3.


23 Apr 11 *** SEM Down until further notice  The LEO has suffered a vacuum problem and the foreline pump has problem starting up.  We are investigating the cause.  The system will be down until further notice.   Sorry for the inconvenience. 


22 Apr 11 *** ORION Plus ON-LINE  The ORION Plus Helium Ion Microscope has been installed in C2-080 and achieved spec-on-site (with 0.34 nm resolution) on 19 April, 2010.  We expect full operation within the next two months.


30 Mar 11 *** ORION Plus Helium Ion Microscope  Canada's very first Helium Ion Microscope will be installed in C2-080.  The new ion microscope is offering unprecedented spatial resolution of 0.35 nm with Z contrast for both hard and soft, conducting and nonconducting materials.  This unique tool is expected to put WATLab and uWaterloo at the cutting edge of microscopy research and nanosciences.


28 Mar 11 *** EBL Software upgrade:    A new version of the Nabity EBL software is being installed along with a new PC.  The EBL system will be down until further notice.  Sorry for the inconvenience.


10 Jan 11 *** Messy workplace    After just one week from startup, we found that the sample prep hood was once again left with a big mess.  Once the entropy has started, the second law of thermodynamics will take over WATLab in no time.  We have implemented the following countermeasures:


1.  From now on, anyone caught leaving a big mess in the SEM, hood, gold coater, and other areas of WATLab will be charged a clean-up fee equivalent to 1 h of OS.   We will do a spot-check before and after each user's session to assure compliance.  As we just don't have human resource to clean up after these messy users, chronic messy users will be banished from WATLab altogether.  Each user MUST leave the workplace in a tidy and clean condition for the next user.


2.  Some users still don't know how to use the new system of the gold coater and proceed to unplug things on their own.  This is NOT acceptable.  If you have questions, please come to ask one of us.   If these users cannot follow the protocol, we will discontinue gold coating service at WATLab.


3 Jan 11 *** Happy New Year!   As we start this exciting new year (celebrating the International Year of Chemistry), we wish to draw your attention to the new booking system now in place (below).   In the interest of streamlining our operation, accounting and billing will only be done once a year (from April 2010 to February 2011) - please inform your boss and this will be done later in February.  WATLab will be completing all the upgrades to the SEM this term, including the upgrade to the Nabity EBL system.  WATLab is looking forward to the commissioning of the first Helium Ion Microscope in Canada (expected later in the spring) and of the first Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry system on campus (expected later in the fall).  Various enhancements of our other materials science techniques will be made along the way, budget permitting.  With these new and upgraded existing tools, we hope that WATLab will continue to play a key role in enabling our users to engage in exciting new research in science and technology in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and beyond in 2011.  Happy data mining.


3 Dec 10 *** New SEM booking system now in place:  The Bookit system will be coming down on Dec 13.  WATLab will not move to its replacement (Outlook Exchange) b/c it's far too complicated to manage.  Instead, we will use google calendar. Beginning Dec 13, all SEM reservation will be made by logging in at:




Sign in with the login name   watlab.sem   and the appropriate password.  Certified users may obtain the new password from Nina.  As we are experimenting with this booking system, we wish to remind the user that the normal operating hours are 8 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday.  We will block off Operator Service time slots once the system is stabilized.  We hope we could rely on all of our users to have some patience with each other as we go through this transition phase.  In the meantime, we take this opportunity to wish you all a happy holidays and all the best in 2011.


21 Oct 10 *** CCEM One-day Workshop:   There is a one-day microscopy workshop at Mac on Nov 5, 2010 (Friday).  Please see the workshop poster here


20 Oct 10 *** Computer security:  We are aware of the ongoing issues with the Raith EBL system at QNC.  This has been traced back to a USB stick of a user infected with the so-called "Chinese virus" that is known to infect not only the cpu of any computer but also any EPROM or processor in any electronic device (including all the electronic boards inside the SEM and virtually any machine systems at WATLab).  This type of virus is also very difficult to kill once it gets inside a "controller" as antivirus programs will not work with controllers without the proper OS.  This is a real and very potent threat and can serious damage not just all the computer systems and machines in WATLab but also all the computers of our entire user base and their groups.  We therefore ask all users to implement the following counter-measures:


1.  Do NOT use any of WATLab computers, including the USER DATA computer that stores the SEM images, for any email or messaging or internet or social networking activities.  Under no circumstances should any of the machine computers see the internet - do not run the browsers on these machines!  Anyone caught with using the browsers on these machines (including the SEM, EDX and EBL computers) will be banished forever from WATLab.  Please bring your own laptop for these activities and use wireless access.


2.  Do NOT bring in any old or suspect USB stick for transferring data.  Please RESERVE (and label) one new USB stick just for this purpose and don't use it for anything else.  WATLab will also provide blank DVD for writing data, if needed.  The idea is to minimize exposure of our systems to the external world.


3.  Please report to us ANY user activity that does not follow these simple rules.  I think we all agree that it is of everyone's interest to protect WATLab's systems because once affected they will become the point of infection that spreads the virus to all the computers of anyone who uses WATLab.  This could affect us all very negatively, especially our graduate students who may be writing their theses.


Thank you for your continued cooperation.


11 Oct 10 *** EBL upgrade & spectroscopy fleet relocation: There will be a software (to Version 9 and XP) and hardware upgrade (control board) to the Nabity EBL system, which will improve the write speed and off-line design flexibility.  We will implement this change during machine physics time slots and hopefully with minimal service interruption.

WATLab is expanding into some recently found space to accommodate the two new instrument clusters and the RPL.  We will also be able to relocate the spectroscopy fleet to this new space before Christmas.  We expect this should relieve the severe space shortage experienced in all areas of WATLab.


 3 Sept 10 *** Normal operation: As we begin a very busy fall term, we wish to again remind the user of the heavy fines for late start and no show.  Please have your sample in hand before making machine reservation to avoid these penalties.  Please also note that we have made an adjustment to the gold coating cost due to the sharp rise in gold prices and added a surcharge to those who just use our gold coater and not our SEM.


22 July 10 *** Vacuum problem: We have located the leak and removed this problem temporarily.  A new vacuum readout problem has emerged and we have been working on this last week.  We don't think we have completely resolved this issue but we will resume normal service starting July 23.  Thank you for our patience.


6 July 10 *** Vacuum problem:The chamber pressure has become very poor.  We have replaced the turbo but the problem remains.  We are in contact with the service engineer to find a fix.  System will be down until further notice.  Please watch the bookit scheduler.


5 July 10 *** Stage fixed, but what a messy workplace:  The stage issue has been fixed for now.  The system will be available by noon.


But I found the clean hood and the SEM general area are always left in a big mess!  I spent 20 minutes cleaning this up this morning and we will not do this again.  From now on, we will check the lab condition after each user has completed the session.  If we find the workplace is left in a messy and disorganized condition, we will charge a lab cleanup fee ($50) to the user.  Please treat your fellow user with some respect and leave a clean, tidy and pleasant work environment for the next user.  Thank you very much for your cooperation.

4 July 10 *** Stage failure:  The stage cannot be initialized in the X-Y plane and we cannot use the system until further notice.  We are investigating the cause of the failure.

26 June 10 *** Upgrade complete:  The various upgrades for the SEM/EDX/OIM systems are finally complete.  Zeiss has fixed the miscellaneous air-jack problem and has also replaced the power control board (that gave the 24 V error).  We don't expect any more service interruption until the filament dies.  Our backlog appears to be improving (down to 2 weeks).


4 June 10 *** No show and cancellation:  We notice a large number of recent no shows and last-minute cancellations.  Please note that there will be heavy fines equivalent to the OS rate ($70/h) or industrial user rate ($165/h) and we will start informing your boss.  Have some respect for other users who may need the time.  We need THREE working days for cancellation.  Do not book the machine unless you have samples in hand.


29 May 10 *** SEM normal operation:   Backlog is coming down to acceptable level (2 weeks).  Filament is on its last legs.  Expect filament replacement soon and minor service interruption to repair vibration membranes in the next 2-3 months.


31 Mar 10 *** SEM resuming normal operation:   The brief SEM pc problem (file saving issue) that one user encountered this afternoon has been resolved and we are resuming normal operation.  I'll be on site on this good Friday for those users who decide to do data mining that day.  Happy Easter.


21 May 10 *** Victoria Day Monday:   WATLab will be open and on normal operation on Monday 24 May 2010.


12 Mar 10 *** Carbon coating:   Those users doing the carbon coating are always leaving the station in a big mess and creating dangerous situation by not turning off the controller after use.  WATLab will withdraw this self-serve service.  Effectively immediately, users who will need to have their samples C-coated should submit their samples 5 working days in advance, and we will do this service for them at a charge of $50 per coating.


17 Feb 10 *** Spot trading:   WATLab continues to have problems with a few users not following the booking rules.  We found some of these users are starting to trade their spots with other users.  This is forbidden because the facility needs to track the machine usage in case of system breakdown.  If the user starts trading booking spots, then we will lose track of the responsible party and the type of samples that may be causing the machine problems.  This is also the reason why each user must be trained and certified individually.  There is no substitution.  From now on, users caught trading their spots will be denied access and their entire group will also be denied access.  Zero tolerance.


Given that WATLab does not have an army of facility staff to monitor the usage and is essentially a self-serve honour system, we hope that the user will understand that these "strict" facility rules are there to protect the machines and the general user community.  If we allow individual users to set their own rules as they please, the facility integrity will degrade quickly, which will lead to chaos that is ultimately bad for all users.


12 Feb 10 *** Fines for no-show doubled:   This morning, both users did not show up for their appointed time slots.  You know who you are!  This is a clear sign of lack of respect for other users, especially when we are all trying to get some time on the machine to do some work.  We have now DOUBLED the fines for no-show (i.e. twice the rate of OS = $140 per hour) and your boss will be notified.  Please remember that we require 3 working days for cancellation so that other users can rebook (it's no good if you cancel in the last minute as the time will still be wasted).  If the present countermeasure does not work, these "no-show" users will be denied future access and they will be off our grid permanently.


27 Jan 10 *** Booking rules and backlog:   Due to the recent surge in the SEM usage, we wish to remind everyone to treat your fellow user and the machine with respect and to observe the following protocols:

1.  Please observe the booking rules, i.e. not counting the current week, reserve in the coming weeks no more than SIX hours total in no more than FOUR time slots.  THIS MEANS: A user should reserve, in ALL of the coming weeks not counting the present week (and not per week), the total amount of time not more than 6 hours and the number of time slots not more than 4, whichever is less.  We will be monitoring this closely and implement heavy fines for users who overbook.  Users who continue to ignore the booking rules will be blocked.

2.  Please show up on time and do not book a time period longer than you need.  There will be fines for users who show up late.  Also, try not to leave too many gaps in between time slots.

3.  The fine for "no-show" is charges equivalent to hours for OS industrial rate, and we will start indicating this on our accounting statement to your boss - this means your boss will know.  We require 3 working days for cancellation to allow other users to re-book.

4.  We will be creating a new class of users to allow these "senior users" to access evening and Saturday time slots (when they become available).  Only the most responsible "permanent" users will be given this privilege.

5.  If all these measures do not work, then we will start blocking all undergraduate users from WATLab.


11 Dec 09 *** ORF announcement at WATLab:  Full story at TheRecord.com


10 Nov 09 *** OIM upgrade to begin at mid-day 1 Dec:  OIM installation will begin on Dec 1 at 1 pm and will continue for the next two days, if all goes well.  We hope that this will be the last of service interruption for this year.  In an attempt to clear some backlog, experienced users ( = users with at least 20 hours of using the machine on his/her own) can look out for available walk-in time during the next few Saturdays.  We will unlock these times 12 hours before Saturday if we are planning to be here in the weekend.   Please note that you must be an experienced user to use these times as we don't want to babysit new users - we have our own work to do.


27 Nov 09 *** SEM resuming normal operation on Nov 30:  We have replaced the broken Varian turbo with a replacement Varian turbo and the vacuum seems good now.  Please go easy on the system.


17 Nov 09 *** System down due to turbo failure:  The new Varian turbo pump installed just four months ago has failed.  This is a new low even for Varian.  WATLab has tried to be a Varian-free zone but we cannot control what the manufacturer provides in their systems.  We have contacted Zeiss and the engineer is trying to find us a replacement.  The system will be down until we can get this fixed and we expect to be at least one week.  We apologize for any inconvenience.  Update 26 Nov 09:   We have now received a replacement turbo and are waiting for instruction about the next step.  Expect down time no more than one more week.


27 October 09 *** Bad user behaviour:  One or more users on Monday Oct 26 have left a big mess in the sample preparation hood and in the lab in general.  This is unacceptable behaviour.  ALL USERS ARE REQUIRED TO LEAVE A "TIDY AND CLEAN" WORKPLACE FOR THE NEXT USER.  We are implementing a penalty to discourage this type of behaviour (the user will be charged for a big clean up fee and we will inform your boss about this extra billing).  Because of the current high flu season, we also hope that the user will wash their hands before coming into the lab to minimize workplace transmission.  Thank you very much for your cooperation.


15 October 09 *** No show:  There has been a number of no-show after the SEM has been reserved.  Please note that WATLab requires 3 working days for cancellation, and your group will be charged whether you show up for your booked session or not, as no one else can use the time slot once it has been reserved.  Please keep that in mind when you make your booking.


8 October 09 *** Minor mid-term cost adjustment:  The recent rise in the consumable cost, particularly the price of gold, has given us no choice but to increase the gold coating charges to $20 per 120-s coat.   Please collect eight samples together and deposit  them all at the same time to reduce gold consumption and the cost to your group.


8 October 09 *** OIM installation on track:  The expected upgrade to the OIM system (the last of the summer upgrade) is on schedule - expected to be after mid October.


 9 July 09 *** SEM NEW user rules:  The recent upgrade has cost WATLab a considerable amount of cash, none of which is covered by the user fees.  These changes are one-way only, which means that should the system go down we have no way of going back to the way we were.  Please note the following changes to the present operation:


1.  New hand panel:  This front-end input device replaces the ordinary keyboard but it is very expensive (cost ~$10,000, i.e. one hand panel = 500 keyboards).  As such, we really don't want the hand panel to get dirty or abused because we won't have a backup due to its high cost.  [We have seen serious abuses to the joystick (cost ~$2000 just for a refurbished one), and our Shops had to repair it a few times.]  From now on, NO FOOD or DRINK will be allowed into the SEM lab.  Please treat these as very delicate and expensive equipment with respect  as it's NOT a toy.   Indeed, we ask the user to WASH HANDS before handling any of the lab equipment, particularly the hand panel and of course the microscope.  The practice of hand washing will also help to minimize the risk of flu transfer via WATLab equipment during the flu seasons and we hope the user will appreciate this extra health and safety protection practice for all.  Any user caught with dirty hands, food or drink or leaving a messy work place for the next user will risk having his/her access revoked.

2.  New SmartSEM software:  The user will find all the icons looking different.  But all the functions are still there while they may be residing in different places.  The system now operates in XP Pro environment with dual monitor support.   Once we familiarize ourselves, we will recommend the best setup to proceed.  In the meantime, please do not hesitate to ask and do NOT explore the system on your own (because things may get messed up and we don't know how to fix it).

3.  New capabilities:  We will roll out the new capabilities as we fully test out these features to assure robustness.   Please stay with something that you know.  For now, the user will find the beam aligned a lot better than before, with the current improved by over 50%.

We think the user will like the new upgrades as these will not only make the machine even more user friendly but also improve the image quality.  Please be patient with us and with your fellow user as we are adapting to the new system.  Thank you very much for your kind cooperation.


 28 August 09 *** EDX Genesis Version 4.61 now in place: The new EDX software (Genesis V 4.61) has now been installed and appears to be functioning normally.  There is only very minimal front-end change noticeable to the user, but the software is claimed to have the most stable engine.  The OIM upgrade is next and expected to be sometime in mid September, which will complete the series of summer upgrades to the SEM system, making it remaining to be a state-of-the-art and most advanced field-emission machine.


6 August 09 *** CFI UW News Release: WATLab to lead SMO research - First Helium Ion Microscope and RPL to come to Canada...  The HIM is the most powerful microscope on Earth and UW users should be among the first to take advantage of this unique facility - the second-generation HIM!  We will be one of less than 20 sites worldwide, and the only Canadian site, to have this HIM instrument.


 12 July 09 *** Booking rule #3:  It has come to our attention that some users are ignoring the advance booking rule.  Please remove any extra booking slots, in keeping of Rule #3 below to allow all users a fair chance of access to the system.   All users should only reserve NO more than six hours or 3 times slots TOTAL (and not per week) in the coming weeks.  If we cannot convince the user to do this voluntarily, we may need to implement a more draconian measure.


 4 September 09 *** Resuming SEM on September 15: The problem has been resolved and the SEM is functional.  In the next few days, we will however be investigating the cause of the lock-up and will see if we can develop some possible safety measures to prevent similar types of lock-up and failure in future.  WATLab will resume SEM service on September 15.


 31 August 09 *** SEM DOWN until further notice: The y-motion axis was broken this morning.  We will try to get a replacement in as soon as possible.  In the meantime, the system is off-line.


 30 July 09 *** Machine instability problem:  We have been alerted that there is a potential problem related to clicking of relays on one of the boards.  We are looking into this problem, and Zeiss engineers have been contacted.


 30 July 09 *** OIM/EDX upgrade coming:  The OIM/EDX upgrade is on order and is expected sometimes in the next few weeks.  Instead of unnecessarily blocking off access for a whole week, we will just "bump off" the users during the two days of the installation.  ALL USERS:  Please be aware that your booking may get override by the installation on very short notice.  The upgrade will include new EDX software, and a new CCD OIM camera plus software.  More to come...


 6 July 09 *** SEM overhaul NOW:  Zeiss engineer will be on site starting July 7  to implement the much anticipated SEM upgrades, and the system will be down for about a week.  The user will see a significant improvement in the way the SEM works and a brief "re-training" will be needed before granting access.   After the upgrade, please book as normal but CONTACT ONE OF US BEFORE STARTING YOUR SESSION.  We will have expert users standing by to provide some help.


The present SEM upgrade will include:  New SmartSEM software, new hand-panel for image control, new high current mode, plus other less obvious items (new PC and new turbo).  This upgrade will bring the system back to "state-of-the-art" status, after 10 years of continued heavy usage as the singular most important tool on campus in promoting advanced materials research at Waterloo and nearby local industries.


This will be the first of a series of upgrades to the existing WATLab facilities...  There will be minor upgrades to the EDX/OIM system to follow in the next two months after the SEM returns to stable normal operation.


15 May 09 *** Restarting EBL service:  EBL users have now agreed to a new processing protocol to minimize machine contamination.  Machine conditions will be closely monitored during this restart phase.


11 May 09 *** WHY did Noah build the Ark?   The ESCALab was once again flooded for the second time in 3 years by shady plumbing infrastructure and years of poorly maintained building practices in C2.  This time the pouring water was fast and furious, yellow in colour and smelling bad.  It took Plant Op several people and seven hours to unclog the main drainage to resolve this flooding problem.  We are accessing the potentially huge damage to the Spectromicroscopy Lab due to the sewage water and bracing ourselves for long lost time and large repair bill.  Expect significant down time to the ESCA service...  MOVIE


11 May 09 *** USER DATA folder cleanup:    The USER DATA folder is down to 4 GB free space now.  All USERS: Please remove all the image files as soon as possible.  Thank you for your cooperation.


30 Apr 09 *** NO after-6pm access:    In order to keep a closer eye on the machine and hopefully keep it alive till the overhaul, we will not allow access after 6 pm until further notice.  Please book time in the normal hours.  We have deleted all after-hour bookings.


28 Apr 09 *** SEM has been fixed.  Resuming normal operation onThursday April 30:   Please note that this is a temporary fix only.  In case the system crashes or the program freezes again, please come to get one of us.   If we are not nearby, please leave a note (describing what has happened) and your extension so we can contact you later.  The accounting software will log out automatically and you won't be charged.  Please do not power down the hardware or the software because (a) it may cause further damage to the system and (b) it's easier to diagnose the problem.  Thank you for your patience and cooperation.  Also, please note that the SEM overhaul is still coming in 3-4 weeks.  Stay tuned.


8 Apr 09 *** EBL off-line until further notice:  Our countermeasure has failed.  We are suspending all EBL service effective immediately to see if we can minimize further contamination to the SEM.  We recommend all existing EBL users to use the UWO facility in the meantime.  We ask all remaining users to check their sample cleanliness carefully, and any user found with questionable samples will risk having their account deactivated.


31 Mar 09 *** SEM contamination issue:  We have detected some narrowing of the smaller slits, which suggests possible contamination from some of the users' samples.  This is not good for the users because it will also mean that all EDX quantification could be off - not to mention the high cost of replacing the slit.  Please be sure that your samples are clean and free from materials that can be easily evaporated by electron beam bombardment.  Users working with photoresists and other porous materials should definitely check their samples.  If you are not sure about your samples, please check with us for a possible handling solution.  We will be doing spot-checking in the next few weeks, and if we find some users knowingly risking the machine, we will revoke their WATLab access to protect the rest of our user base.


23 Mar 09 *** SEM upgrade planned:  We have entered into serious negotiation with Zeiss and EDAX to perform a long overdue system overhaul to repair both the software and some of the hardware (hand panel, turbo, pc) in the SEM, EDX and OIM systems.  It is anticipated that work will begin early or mid May and the machine is expected to be down for about a week if all goes well.  Please be advised that user booking may get overridden by this service.

13 Mar 09 *** USER FEES INCREASE:  Due to the increase in service cost and the uncertain financial outlook of WATLab, the USER FEES WILL GO UP effective 2009.  Please note the new SEM user fees ($40/h for Certified Users and $70/h for OS services) and the new cap ($4000 for every six months).  If you do not like the fees hike, please (a) talk to your Department Chair and your Dean and get them to provide direct support (not just spiritual one) to WATLab.  Kind words and nice gestures don't pay the bill.  ***Despite its perceived importance and its heavy usage from all major departments on campus, WATLab sadly does not receive a single dime from UW Administration.  We no longer have sufficient funding to continue to subsidize (yes, subsidize!!!) its expensive on-going operating cost, and will begin to implement a user fees structure that more accurately reflects the actual cost of using these expensive machines on a revenue-neutral basis.  (b) use the other on-campus facilities in the Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Mechatronic Engineering, and Biology, and off-campus facilities (e.g. Surface Science Western at UWO, BIMR and CMC at McMaster  ***Unlike WATLab, these facilities have cash support from their respective administration and offer good services with permanent support staff to assist users year-round.