Institute for Future

Optical and electron microscopy


Our electron and light microscopy laboratory is part of the Central Analytical Research Facility (CARF). It houses 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, showing 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

Read details

Research Leaders

Laboratory Coordinator

Laboratory team

Organisational unit
Lead unit Institute for Future Environments
Research areas
light microscopy, electron microscopy, microscopes, laboratories, CARF laboratories, optical microscopy, light microscope, optical microscope, microanalysis, electron microscope, failure analysis, CARF


Our equipment allows for optical microscopy, electron microscopy and specimen preparation. See the details and specifications of our available laboratory equipment.

Optical microscopy

Our optical microscopy instruments include stero, 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 MeF3 Inverted Metallographic Microscope Quality optics and large stage for heavy or bulky samples.
Zeiss Axio Imager M2m Sub-stage can transfer to Zeiss Sigma Scanning Electron Microscope for correlative microscopy ('Shuttle & Find'). Tiling and extended focus imaging. High grade optics with digital encoding, LED illumination, motorised stage and circular differential interference contrast (C-DIC), darkfield and polarised light imaging.
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.

Scanning and probe microscopy

Instrument Capabilities and features
BMT Multiscan Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) Multiscale imaging, AFM lithography, huge 800 µm scan range.
NT-MDT Solver Pro Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) Wet sample imaging with SMENA head. Multiple imaging models for both dry and wet samples.

Thin film characterisation

Instrument Capabilities and features
Brukey Dektak XT-A Stylus Profiler An automated stylus profilometer capable of 0.5 nm repeatability. Fitted with a 2 micron radius diamond stylus and a 50 mm ceramic vacuum chuck. Software allows 3D mapping, 2D stress analysis and stitching of scans up to 150 mm.
JA Woollam M2000 UI Spectroscopic Ellipsometer Measurement of film thickness in single- and multi-layer systems, as well as refractive index and dielectric properties. Dual quartz-halogen and deuterium lamps allow spectral measurements from 245 to 1690 nm. Focusing optics for small spot analysis.

Electron microscopy

Our electron microscopy instruments include 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 stereomicroscopy (FIB), nanostructuring (FIB) and HRTEM lamella preparation, including SRIM
  • 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. Panchromatic and hyperspectral cathodoluminescence imaging (UV- vis-near IR)
  • 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.

Focused ion beam (FIB) microscopes

Instrument Capabilities and features
FEI Quanta 3D Dual-beam Focused Ion Beam Micro-scale milling and fabrication, with platinum deposition, carbon etching and in-situ Kleindiek micromanipulator. Milling of photonic structures, transmission electron microscope sample milling and lift-out, slice-and-view imaging.

Scanning electron microscopes (SEMs)

Instrument Capabilities and features
JEOL JSA 6360A Scaning Electron Microscope High vacuum imaging, X-ray microanalysis (JEOL EX-54175JMH).
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 MicroscopeField Emission SEM with stage biasing for low voltage imaging of delicate structures and surface features and a 60 mm2 Thermo Ultra Dry EDS Detector. The microscope has an Electron Beam Lithography package for nanostructuring. Variable Pressure (VP) mode for insulating samples available with a cold stage.
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, LaB6 gun.

Sample preparation

Instrument Capabilities and features
Gatan Cryoplunge 3Cryofixation of biological samples for transmission electron microscopy.
Pelco Biowave Pro Microwave Tissue ProcessorMicrowave accelerated processing of tissue samples for scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy.
Leica EM UC6 UltramicrotomeSample preparation of embedded biological samples for transmission electron microscope characterisation.
Leica EM UC7 UltramicrotomeSample preparation of embedded biological samples for transmission electron microscope characterisation.
Leica EM TXPTarget preparation device for milling, sawing, grinding, and polishing samples.
Kern MLS-A Moisture AnalyserMoisture analyser with 49 memories for individual drying programs.
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 CoaterGold sputter coating.
Bio-Rad SC500 Sputter CoaterPlatinum sputter coating.
Cressington 206HR Carbon CoaterEvaporative carbon coating. Turbo pumped for simple operation and rapid turnaround.
Tousimis Autosamdri-815 Critical Point Drier (CPD)Automated CPD for dehydration of samples for electron microscopy.
Evactron 25 Decontaminator with Softclean ChamberGentle removal of hydrocarbon contamination from samples and components by oxygen free-radical stream.
E.A. Fischione Model 2000 Specimen Preparation SystemPrecision grinding of samples for transmission electron microscopy.
E.A. Fischione Model 330 Ultrasonic Disk CutterCutting undamaged 3 mm disk samples for transmission electron microscopy.
Fischione Model 110Twin Jet ElectropolisherThinning 3 mm metal samples for transmission electron microscope (TEM) imaging.

Services and equipment hire

Accessing services and equipment

Our microscopy equipment is available to staff, students and external clients 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 industrial 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.

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 pricing for external researchers

Equipment, service or analysis With technician assistanceUnassisted
SEM microscopy (per hour)
JEOL 7001F $155 $65
VP Zeiss Sigma $155 $65
TESCAN Mira 3 $155 $65
Hitachi TM3000 $155 $65
FEI Quanta 3D FIB $155 $65
Electron probe microanalysis (EPMA)
JEOL 8530F $155 $65
TEM microscopy (per hour)
JEOL 1400 $155 $65
JEOL 2100 $155 $65
Other microscopy (per hour)
Light microscopes $125 $40
Nikon A1R Confocal $155 $65
Other services (per hour)
Microscopy preparation $90 N/A
Materials preparation $90 N/A

Indicative 2020 pricing for commercial organisations

Equipment, service or analysis With technician assistanceUnassisted
SEM microscopy (per hour)
JEOL 7001 $390 $270
VP Zeiss Sigma $390$270
TESCAN Mira 3$390$270
Hitachi TM3000 $390$270
FEI Quanta 3D FIB $390$270
Electron probe microanalysis (EPMA)
JEOL 8530F $365N/A
TEM microscopy (per hour)
JEOL 1400 $390N/A
JEOL 2100 $390N/A
Other microscopy (per hour)
Light microscopes $215 $95
Nikon A1R Confocal $280 $165
Other services (per hour)
Microscopy preparation $120 N/A
Materials preparation $120 N/A
Consulting and report writing$120N/A


Central Analytical Research Facility - Optical and Electron Microscopy Laboratory

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