Analytical chemistry

Our laboratory houses cutting-edge equipment that allows for optical microscopy, electron microscopy and specimen preparation.

Our microscopy laboratory has a suite of routine and advanced light microscopes and electron microscopes that enable users to conduct innovative research.

Light microscopy

The light or optical microscope uses visible light and a sequence of lenses to magnify images of small objects and their features, and captures images digitally by CCD cameras, displaying the resulting image directly on a computer screen.

Research applications

Light microscopy has diverse applications across the biological and physical sciences in fields such as cell biology, medicine, material and earth sciences. Confocal microscopy uses fluorescence and laser technology to enhance image clarity and contrast in delicate biological structures. FT-IR and Raman spectroscopy allow molecular fingerprinting and the characterisation of a wide range of substances such as organic compounds, polymers and resins.

Typical projects
  • Plant structure and systematics
  • Nanotechnology, biomechanics, mechanical and material engineering
  • Metallographic investigations of aluminium products
  • Geology of coral reef systems
  • Polymer chemistry and biomaterials

Electron microscopy

Electron microscopy allows micro- to nanoscopic investigation of a broad range of natural and synthetic materials, including metals and alloys, semi-conductors, minerals, glasses and biological materials.

Research applications

Electron microscopy is a very powerful technology and a cornerstone of the natural sciences. It has widespread applications across the biological and physical sciences in fields as diverse as cell biology, biomedicine, material science and nanotechnology, earth and planetary sciences, and forensics.

Typical projects
  • Development of novel photocatalysts
  • Nanomaterials and photonics (eg. nanoparticle uptake by cells)
  • Quantitative analysis and imaging of geomaterials
  • Biomaterials and biomineralisation
  • Thin film characterisation
  • Polymers
  • Plasmonics
  • Biomimetics
  • Material failure analysis

Related capabilities

The Central Analytical Research Facility also offers geological sample preparation, and nanoscale imaging including ion beam microscopy.

Header image is 'Giardia duodenalis trophozoites' by Dr Crystal Cooper, a shortlisted entry in QUT's 2019 Science In Focus image competition.


Our state-of-the-art equipment allows for optical microscopy, electron microscopy and specimen preparation.

Optical microscopy

Our optical microscopy instruments include stereo, petrographic, metallographic, biological and confocal microscopes. The laboratory can carry out light microscopy, scanning probe microscopy and thin film characterisation.

Light microscopy
Instrument Capabilities and features
Leica M125 Zoom Stereo Microscope Image stack collection and extended focus reconstruction. LED ring, gooseneck lights and motorised Z-stage.
Nikon Eclipse LV100ND Petrograhic Microscope Polarised light optics and rotating stage.
Nikon Eclipse 50iPol Petrographic Microscope Basic polarising microscope.
Leica DMi8A Inverted Microscope Inverted materials microscope for metallography in brightfield and polarised light including scanning stage and manual focus drive.
Zeiss Axio Imager M2m Used in correlative microscopy to transfer to the Zeiss Sigma Scanning Electron Microscope ('Shuttle & Find'). High grade optics with digital encoding, LED illumination, motorised stage including tiling and extended focus. Circular differential interference contrast (C-DIC), darkfield, and polarised light.
Nikon A1R Confocal Microscope High speed confocal imaging. Resonant scanner. 405, 488 561 and 640 nm lasers.
Nikon Eclipse Ti Inverted Microscope Imaging of fluorescently labelled samples. Motorised stage.
Leica DM6000 Petrographic Microscope Motorised z-focus, nosepiece turret and stage. Polarised, transmitted and reflected light.

Electron microscopy

Our electron microscopy instruments include an electron probe microanalyser (FE-EPMA), focused ion beam (FIB) microscopes, scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) and transmission electron microscopes (TEMs).


We can:

  • embed, section, and stain fixed biological tissues or samples (SEM, TEM)
  • mount and polish materials (eg. minerals, glasses, metal alloys) in thin section, epoxy resin or conductive resin (SEM, TEM, EPMA)
  • perform microstructural and compositional analysis (TEM, SEM) (eg. electron diffraction, EDX on SEM and TEM)
  • produce high resolution TEM images (lattice structure information)
  • undertake topography and Z-contrast imaging
  • perform nanostructuring (FIB) and HRTEM lamella preparation, targeted cross-sectioning, tomography, including running simulations (SRIM, FIB/SEM)
  • perform electron back-scattered diffraction (EBSD) to investigate structure and orientation of polished crystalline materials
  • use wavelength dispersive x-ray spectroscopy to generate high precision standards-based quantitative elemental analysis of solid materials (EPMA)
  • integrate panchromatic and hyperspectral cathodoluminescence imaging (UV- vis-near IR) into EPMA
  • carry out liberated mineral analysis (LMA)
  • carry out electron beam lithography for nanostructuring.
Electron probe microanalyser (EPMA)
Instrument Capabilities and features
JEOL JXA 8530F Hyperprobe

Field emission electron microprobe for high-precision, standards-based quantitative elemental analysis (Be to U) and x-ray mapping using Probe for EPMA and Probe Image software.

Electron gun operates up to 30 kV and several mA beam current, with detection limits routinely ≤100 ppm and reaching <10 ppm.

Twelve analyzing crystals are distributed among five wavelength dispersive spectrometers (WDS) including a large crystal "L" type and two high count rate "H" types.

Detector array features two sealed Xe and three gas-flow proportional counters.

Additional capabilities for imaging and qualitative analysis include a Thermo Noran System 7 EDS system, JEOL panchromatic cathodoluminescence (CL) detector, and both standard and high-resolution xCLent spectroscopic CL detectors. Anti-contamination cold finger is available.

Scanning electron microscopes (SEMs)
Instrument Capabilities and features
JEOL JSA 6360A Scanning Electron Microscope High vacuum imaging, X-ray microanalysis (JEOL EX-54175JMH) fitted with a tungsten gun.
Zeiss Sigma VP Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope Zeiss Gemini column gives excellent imaging performance across the beam energy range for imaging delicate structures and surface features. Variable Pressure (VP) operation for insulating samples. Oxford XMax 50 Silicon Drift (SDD) EDS detector for rapid X-ray mapping and accurate analysis.
JEOL 7001F Scanning Electron Microscope A very stable instrument capable of delivering very high beam currents in a small spot size for X-ray and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) analysis. Automated feature detection and analysis software. Field emission gun, Oxford XMax 80 X-ray detector, Inca gunshot residue (GSR), Oxford EBSD system.
TESCAN Mira3 Scanning Electron Microscope Stage biasing for low-voltage imaging of delicate structures and surface features. Variable Pressure (VP) mode for insulating samples available with a cold stage. Fitted with a 60 mm² Thermo Ultra Dry EDS Detector. The microscope has an Electron Beam Lithography package for nanostructuring.
TESCAN Tima Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope An automated mineral analysis system that fully integrates backscattered electron (BSE) and cathodoluminscence (CL) imaging with energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) spectrometry for fast quantitative analysis of rock samples and natural resource materials such as ores, tailings and smelter products.
Phenom XL G2 Desktop Scanning Electron Microscope Contains a large sample holder with motorised stage navigation, low/medium/high vacuum modes, light optical and electron optical (BSE and SE) modes. The Phenom includes an EDS detector with integrated software. The resolution of this microscope is excellent due to the thermionic (CeB6) source (<10 nm).
Hitachi Analytical TableTop Microscope TM3000 Back-scattered imaging at 5 or 15 kV beam energy. Charge reduction mode for insulating samples. Tilt/rotate holder, EDS detector and cooled stage for imaging hydrated samples.
Transmission electron microscopes (TEMs)
Instrument Capabilities and features
JEOL 2100 200 kV Transmission Electron Microscope High-resolution imaging capabilities for a range of materials and nanotechnology applications. High-sensitivity silicon drift X-ray detector (Oxford XMax) for compositional analysis. Ultra-high-resolution pole piece, Gatan Orius SC1000 CCD camera, LaB6 gun.
JEOL 1400 120 kV Transmission Electron Microscope High-contrast optics, optimised for imaging of biological samples, and high tilt range for acquisition of tomographic datasets. TVIPS F416 CCD camera, tomography holder, cryo holder, tungsten gun.
Sample preparation
Instrument Capabilities and features
Gatan Cryoplunge 3 Cryofixation of biological samples for transmission electron microscopy.
Pelco Biowave Pro Microwave Tissue Processor Microwave accelerated processing of tissue samples for scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy.
Leica EM UC6 Ultramicrotome Sample preparation of embedded biological samples for transmission electron microscope characterisation.
Leica EM UC7 Ultramicrotome Sample preparation of embedded biological samples for transmission electron microscope characterisation.
Leica EM TXP Target preparation device for milling, sawing, grinding and polishing samples.
Gatan Model 691 Precision Ion Polishing System (PIPS) Precise ion milling of samples for transmission electron microscopy.
Gatan Model 682 Precision Etching and Coating Systems (PECS) Ion milling of light microscope and scanning electron microscope samples up to 25 mm diameter mounted blocks. High quality sputtered coatings of chromium and carbon.
Leica EM-SCD005 Sputter Coater Gold sputter coating.
Leica EM ACE600 High Vacuum Coaters Two ACE600 coaters - one for platinum sputter coating and another with dual heads for carbon thread coating or iridium sputter coating.
Safematic CCU-010 HV High Vacuum coater Carbon thread coating.
Tousimis Autosamdri-815 Critical Point Drier (CPD) Automated CPD for dehydration of samples for electron microscopy.
Evactron 25 Decontaminator with Softclean Chamber Gentle removal of hydrocarbon contamination from samples and components by oxygen free-radical stream.
E.A. Fischione Model 2000 Specimen Preparation System Precision grinding of samples for transmission electron microscopy.
E.A. Fischione Model 330 Ultrasonic Disk Cutter Cutting undamaged 3mm disk samples for transmission electron microscopy.
Fischione Model 110Twin Jet Electropolisher Thinning 3mm metal samples for transmission electron microscope (TEM) imaging.

Using our services and equipment

Our microscopy equipment is available to staff, students, external researchers and commercial organisations at a competitive price.

The laboratory provides both self-service and full-service options, with comprehensive instrument training available for internal and external academic researchers as well as commercial clients. Our experienced staff can provide advice and guidance on the experimental procedures and design and the analysis of results in order to achieve optimal outcomes.

Please contact us to discuss your research needs and collaboration opportunities.

Booking instructions

To arrange a consultation, refer to our booking instructions. For internal use, please go to booking information for QUT staff and students (login required).

Indicative pricing

Prices are indicative and vary depending on whether work is for external researchers or commercial organisations, and who carries out the work. We will provide a costing proposal for your approval before any work starts.

Indicative 2021 pricing for external researchers
Equipment, service or analysis With technician assistanceUnassisted
SEM microscopy (per hour)
JEOL 7001F $160 $70
VP Zeiss Sigma $160 $70
TESCAN Mira 3 $160 $70
TESCAN Tima $160 $70
Phenom XL G2 $160 $70
Electron probe microanalysis (per hour)
JEOL 8530F $160 $70
TEM microscopy (per hour)
JEOL 1400 $160 $70
JEOL 2100 $160 $70
Ion microscopy (per hour)
Helium Ion Microscopy $200 $100
Xe Plasma FIB $200 $100
Interpretation and reporting $100 N/A
Other microscopy (per hour)
Light microscopes $130 $45
Nikon A1R Confocal $160 $70
Other services (per hour)
Microscopy preparation $95 N/A
Indicative 2021 pricing for commercial organisations
Equipment, service or analysis With technician assistanceUnassisted
SEM microscopy (per hour)
JEOL 7001F $400 $275
VP Zeiss Sigma $400 $275
TESCAN Mira 3 $400 $275
TESCAN Tima $400 $275
Phenom XL G2 $400 $275
Electron probe microanalysis (per hour)
JEOL 8530F $400 N/A
TEM microscopy (per hour)
JEOL 1400 $400 N/A
JEOL 2100 $400 N/A
Ion microscopy (per hour)
Helium Ion Microscopy $550 N/A
Xe Plasma FIB $550 N/A
Interpretation and reporting $200 -N/A
Other microscopy (per hour)
Light microscopes $220 $100
Nikon A1R Confocal $285 $170
Other services (per hour)
Microscopy preparation $125 N/A
Materials preparation $125 N/A
Consulting and report writing $250 N/A

Capability team

Dr Jamie Riches

Senior Research Officer (Electron Microscopy)

Dr Henrietta Cathey

Research Officer (Electron Microprobe)

Dr Crystal Cooper

Laboratory Coordinator (Microscopy)

Dr Natalia Danilova

Senior Coordinator (Microscopy)

Dr Jess Wu

Senior Technologist (Scanning Electron Microscopy)

Ms Rebecca Fieth

Senior Technologist (Transmission Electron Microscopy)

Mr Donald McAuley

Laboratory Coordinator (Sample Preparation)

Dr Annalena Wolff

Research Infrastructure Specialist (Focused Ion Beams)

Mr Gus Luthje

Technologist (Petrography)

Contact us

Central Analytical Research Facility - Microscopy Laboratory

Level 6, P Block
Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane QLD 4000 Australia

Postal address

Central Analytical Research Facility
GPO Box 2434
Brisbane QLD 4001

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