Capabilities for Materials Characterization and Performance

National Laboratory: 
Sandia National Laboratories
Characterization Class: 
Mechanical Behavior of Materials

SNL has a broad suite of materials characterization and performance capabilities that includes equipment and expertise in sample preparation, surface analysis, microstructural imaging, and chemical analysis. Our tools and techniques have been developed to gain deep insight on factors affecting material composition, structure, adhesion, and diffusion, which can impact performance and reliability of fabricated components. Specific capabilities include:

  • FEI 80-200 Titan Aberration Corrected Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (AC-STEM), a probe-corrected ChemiSTEM, which produces accelerated electron beams at voltages from 80 to 200 keV, enabling researchers to study material structures and local chemistries at the sub-nanometer scale.
  • Multi-beam Scanning Electron Microscope (mSEM), a prototype multiple beam electron microscope that has 61 beams and detectors to afford a wide view of the sample and enhance imaging speed.
  • Focused Ion Beam (FIB)
  • Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)
  • Electron Back Scattered Diffraction (EBSD)
  • X-Ray Diffraction (XRD), Fluorescence (XRF) and Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS)
  • MicroProbe Wavelength Dispersive Spectroscopy (WDS)
  • Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy (ToF-SIMS)
  • Auger Electron Microscopy (AEM).
Capability Bounds: 

Bounds on sample size and resolution depend on the instrument. The AC-STEM can image down to 0.8 angstrom resolution. The mSEM can image about 1 mm2 with 4 nm image resolution in about six minutes, a rate approximately 200–500 times faster than with conventional single beam scanning electron microscopy.

Unique Aspects: 

This combination of advanced scientific instrumentation with SNL staff expertise provides scientific understanding that can be used to guide alloy design, resolve manufacturing-induced contamination issues, and correlate material performance with structural and compositional variations. The AC-STEM includes a high-sensitivity x-ray detector that facilitates very fast compositional measurements from small volumes (up to atomic resolution). While located at Sandia’s New Mexico site, the AC-STEM also can be operated remotely, enabling researchers at SNL-California to employ its high-fidelity capabilities. The mSEM is one of only three in the world, and the only one found at a U.S. national laboratory.


Available for collaboration between industry and staff based on priority with Sandia’s U.S. Department of Energy-based commitments.

Single Point of Contact: 

Name: Joe Michael, Senior Scientist
Phone: (505) 844-9115

  1. D.R. Merrill, D.R. Sutherland, J. Ditto, S.R. Bauers, M.Falmbigl, D.L. Medlin, D.C. Johnson, “Kinetically Controlled Site-Specific Substitutions in Higher-Order Heterostructures.” Chemistry of Materials, vol. 27, pp. 4066-4072 (2015).
  2. J.R. Michael, C.Y. Nakakura, T. Garbowski, A.L. Eberle, T. Kemen, D. Zeidler, “High-Throughput SEM via Multi-Beam SEM: Applications in Materials Science.” Microscopy and Microanalysis, vol. 21, number S3, pp. 697-8 (2015).
Supporting Document(s):