A Vital Resource for New Mexico
As the only academic facility of its kind in New Mexico, the Nanomaterials Characterization Facility (NCF) provides a vital resource to researchers throughout the state. The instruments in this lab are capable of X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, focused ion beam techniques and transmission electron microscopy in order to analyze the chemistry and structure of a variety of synthetic and natural materials. Through multiple collaborations throughout the state, the NCF is able to study everything from minerals found from NASA and JAXA space missions to semiconductors and other man-made materials that support our modern day living.
A deep-rooted history
The NCF has evolved from an X-ray diffraction laboratory in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences (EPS) in the 1950’s to a state-of-the-art facility built heavily on collaboration. Under the leadership of Professor Rodney Ewing, the first transmission electron microscope was installed in 1984. A second higher resolution TEM was acquired in 1994 which began a partnership with Distinguished Regents Professor Abhaya Datye, the director of the Center for Microengineered Materials (CMEM). This relationship between EPS and CMEM has grown since Distinguished Professor Adrian Brearley took over the directorship of the facility in 1998.
As a result of these collaborations, as well as others, NCF has further enhanced its analytical capabilities through successful NSF MRI grants and NASA funding to acquire a field emission gun (FEG) scanning transmission electron microscope in 2000, a dualbeam field emission gun scanning electron microscope/focused ion beam instrument (FEGSEM/FIB) in 2012 and most recently an atomic resolution aberration corrected scanning transmission electron microscope which was funded in 2018.
National and international impact
Each year, over 100 individuals throughout campus and externally (including New Mexico Tech, New Mexico State University, Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Lovelace Research Institute) use NCF’s instrumentation to acquire data to support multiple research projects. More than 70% of these users are graduate students who acquire Masters or PhD degrees and go on to gain positions in academia, industry and national laboratories. They bring with them high-level analytical skills gained in our facilities that allow them to become research leaders in their own field, addressing a wide range of technological, health, environmental and pure science problems at both an international and national level.