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A Tour of the Laboratory

I commissioned a builder to construct a building at the bottom of my garden to house the SEM. The laboratory was commissioned on the 28th January 2016. I had drawn up a detailed and dimensioned layout in a CAD package, and with one or two minor alterations this is how the laboratory ended up. The main instrument is located at the far end of the laboratory from the door.

I initially purchased a pre-owned FEI Inspect S35 SEM. Its specification can be found here. In July 2020 this was replaced with a new TESCAN  MIRA4 FEG SEM, and it is this SEM that is shown in the photograph below. This is described and illustrated in more detail on the SEM Tour page.

To the left of the door is the preparation bench, on which sit the dryer and sputter coater. Opposite this, to the right of the door, there is a “dry” bench, used for assembling specimens onto stubs, and for light microscopy and macro photography.

 Since neither the SEM nor myself as the operator would function well in very high ambient temperatures, the laboratory is fitted with air conditioning, which doubles up as a heat pump in cold weather.

This is the preparation bench, on the left of the lab, where specimens are dried and, after they have been arranged on stubs, where they will be sputter coated with gold. Clearly visible in this photograph are:

Opposite the preparation bench is the “Light Microscope Bench” (not illustrated).

This bench is mostly used for assembling specimens onto stubs, with the aid of a Leica MZ6 stereo light microscope. I have constructed a wide variety of jigs and tools to assist in the process.

The bench also has a Zeiss Photomicroscope II compound microscope for the study of conventional slides made for optical microscopes.

There is a sound system in the lab, for background music or radio, and a PC dedicated to image stacking using a WeMacro stand and Helicon Focus software.

The Critical Point Dryer (CPD), left, is a pressure vessel surrounded by a water jacket. The two gauges register the temperature and pressure of the CO2 used for the drying process. The item to the right of the CPD is a recirculator, for circulating hot water through the water jacket. The Q150R ES sputter coater (right) is shown in the state for loading stubs on the rotating and tilting holder (“Rota Coata”). In use the glass cylinder (top right) surrounds the Rota Coata, and the gold target assembly (top) rests on the top of the cylinder. Both the CPD and sputter coater are supplied by Quorum Technologies.

Wide-angle View of the Interior of the Laboratory from the door end