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A Tour of the Laboratory

With the instrument weighing in at 450 kg, and the dimensions of the main unit being around 90 cm square, there was little hope of its fitting into my bungalow, even if I had the space. I therefore commissioned a builder to construct a purpose-built facility in my garden. The laboratory was finally 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, as seen in photos on the “SEM Tour” page. The concrete floor of the laboratory is locally made to be 2 ft deep in the area underneath the SEM column.

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 will be 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”. On the right is a Zeiss Photomic II compound microscope. To the left of that is a Leica stereo microscope, used for assembling the specimens on to stubs. The rest of the bench is used for photomicrography and macro- photography using a variety of techniques, including image stacking.


The lab also boasts a sound system, for background music or radio, and a PC connected to the Internet.

The Critical Point Dryer (left) is a pressure vessel surrounded by a water jacket (centre). The two gauges register the temperature and pressure of the CO2 in the chamber. 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”) at lower left. 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 of these items are supplied by Quorum Technologies.

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