Waterloo Advanced Technology Laboratory
Celebrating 22 years of novel materials research and new application development in Canada
http:// www.WATLab.com  or  http://leung.uwaterloo.ca/WATLab
University of Waterloo - Chemistry 2- Rm. 059-066/080/081A -  Tel: 519-888-4567 ext. 35826
Director - Professor Tong Leung


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What's NeXT
Last Updated2022-09-06 12:53


 6 September 2022 - Clean-room protocol remains in place: As we begin the fall term with new hope and optimism, we are reminding our users that clean-room protocol remains in place at WATLab until further notice.  This means that all users are required to mask up and glove on

Samples for OS service should be submitted in campus-mail envelopes so that we could return them after the analysis by campus-mail.

WATLab has successfully consolidated all the tools to our C2 labs and we continue to provide a full range of materials analysis second to none in Canada.  WATLab will be commissioning its second ESCA system by December and we will also upgrade the dynamic range of our current TOF SIMS system early next year.  We encourage our users to consider using these (and other) advanced tools at WATLab, which we believe will enable the user to ultimately do better science.


 16 August 2022 - New procedure for submitting samples for OS service In order to reduce the amount of unclaimed samples (submitted for OS service) accumulating in the WATLab area, we now require the user to submit the sample in an on-campus-mail envelope, with the return on-campus mailing info of the user (i.e. the user's name, department, building and room number).  After the sample measurement is complete, the sample will be returned in this on-campus-mail envelope by campus mail.  We thank our users for their kind cooperation.


 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.




How to become a certified SEM user?  Please follow the FAQ link above or here for more details.  Please contact  Nina  to arrange for SEM training and certification.


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.




Established with funding support from Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Province of Ontario in 1999, WATLab is the first multidisciplinary materials research centre in Canada's Technology Triangle.  WATLab offers a complete toolset for advanced materials research and emerging technology development.  Most of our instrument systems are state-of-the-art and some are unique in Canada, and they include:

  • all areas of microscopy and diffraction [Zeiss Libra 200MC TEM, Zeiss Leo 1530 and UltraPlus FESEMs (with EDX/OIM), FEI Quanta Feg 250 ESEM (with EDX), Zeiss Orion Plus HIM, Omicron VT-STM, DI D3500 Nanoman and Asylum Cypher and BIO-3D AFMs, Olympus LMs; Zeiss Correlative Microscope; Anton Paar SAXS, PANalytical X'pert Pro MRD HR-XRD and MPD Powder XRD] - Contact Nina  for SEM & XRD, SAXS, & LM; Lei or Joseph for AFM, HIM, FIB & TEM.

  • spectromicroscopy and spectroscopy [VGS ESCALab 250 Imaging ESCA, MicroLab 350 Auger Microprobe, IONTOF SIMS-5, PE LS55 PL, PE Lambda 35 &1050 UV-Vis, Bruker Senterra-2 Raman, Bruker Tensor 27 FTIR, Bruker Hyperion 3000 FTIR Microscope] - Contact Joseph for ESCA & SIMS; Lei for Auger; Nina for correlative spectroscopies

  • bulk characterization [QD Dynacool PPMS, QD SQUID-VSM MPMS] - Contact Joseph;

  • lithography and nanomachining [Nabity and Fibics EBLs, Raith IBL, IMP Xpress Maskless OL, Zeiss Auriga FIB-SEM, DI Nanoman NL, Fibics NPVE] - Contact Joseph or Lei ;

  • wet and dry materials synthesis (all areas); and

  • rapid device prototyping (all areas). 

We offer pay-per-use service for both academic and industrial users at competitive rates, with our expert operators providing sample characterization measurement (and analysis).  For a selected number of tools (e.g. SEM), we also provide training to allow the users to access the tools through a self-serve booking system. 

To submit samples for analysis, please fill in Form A  above, and contact the respective technical specialists.  For all other enquiries and guided lab tours, please contact manager .


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