Waterloo Advanced Technology Laboratory
Celebrating 20 years of building novel materials and advancing new applications 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 Updated2020-11-15 18:18
Contact us at: manager or director
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 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 steps 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.




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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