Waterloo Advanced Technology Laboratory
Celebrating 21 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 Updated2021-11-12 16:52

 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.  



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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