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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.

 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, 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 arrangement to the left of the bench is to assist in mounting objects accurately onto stubs. The lab-jack on the left has a block to hold stubs sitting on it. The specimen is trapped in the tweezers on the top of the micro-manipulator and can be carefully moved into the desired location with respect to the stub by adjusting the height of the lab-jack and controlling the X and Y motion of the micro-manipulator, as well as its tilt. Once the specimen is in the correct position with respect to the stub it is fixed with conducting glue. Once the glue has set the tweezers are opened and moved away from the specimen. All this is carried out while observing the specimen through the stereo microscope on the long arm.

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