Waterloo Advanced Technology Laboratory
Celebrating 23 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 Updated2023-09-07 16:27


 8 August 2023:  All systems are working well. WATLab will be upgrading our Raman system and will also be adding micro-XRF capability soon. 

There is an article from
Physics World on WATLab.


 4 May 2023:  Both the new ESCA system, Thermo NEXSA G2, and the extended dynamic range upgrade for the ION-TOF SIMS-5 system have been installed successfully.  We encourage all the users to consider taking advantage of these new generations of tools at WATLab for chemical-state surface composition analysis and depth-profiling chemical characterization as we strongly believe that these tools will enable our users to do better science.


 9 March 2023:  The LEO SEM has suffered a leak in the V3 valve mechanism, which is used to isolate the important electron source region during sample loading. Before the V3 leak can be fixed, we have taken the LEO off-line and will only use it for special-need projects (such as those that require electroluminescence).  All the users certified for using the LEO will be moved to the ULTRA.  Please discuss this with Nina or Lei and they can create an user account on the ULTRA.  The LEO and ULTRA have the same SnartSEM user interface and certified LEO users will only need a quick training for using the sample transfer mechanism.  We thank you for your patience and co-operation. 


 16 January 2023 - Happy New Year: As we will soon begin the year of the rabbit, symbolizing luck, peace and prosperity, we wish all our users great success with their work in 2023.  We also wish to remind our users that clean room protocol remains in place. This means that all users are required to mask up and glove on (and stay 2 m apart where possible) in the WATLab domain. 


We begin in 2023 with the installation of the new NEXSA (NEXt Surface Analysis) system and by June we will upgrade the performance of our ION-TOF SIMS-5 system. Both of these are expected to enable our users to do science at the next level (the one involving the topmost 1-2 nm of the surface region, where most of the interesting chemistry take place and new physics occurs).  We encourage our users to take advantage of these techniques as we believe they will enable all of us to do better science.

 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.




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 C  above, and contact the respective technical specialists.  For all other enquiries and guided lab tours, please contact manager .


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