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Central Facilities Laboratory

Established in fall 2000, the Penn State MRSEC Central Facilities Laboratory (CFL) is housed in Davey Laboratory, which is located on Penn State University Park Central Campus within a 10 minute walk of the academic departments of the Center participants. It is comprised of several laboratories that contain instruments for advanced electrical and optical characterization, wet and dry sample preparation, and computation. In addition, the MRSEC has also contributed resources to purchase instruments that are located in established user facilities located at Penn State University. Together these user facilities provide investigators with access to the specialized fabrication, characterization, and computational equipment required for researchers in the MRSEC IRGs. Integration of these instruments into user facilities rather than individual investigator laboratories has enabled the greatest access of the equipment to all MRSEC members who are actively engaged in experimental research, and have provided a mechanism for training courses and workshops related to equipment use and maintenance. Moreover, they also provide natural meeting places for participants from across campus to share technical expertise, which enhances interdisciplinary exchange.

The MRSEC Central Facilities Laboratory primarily serves the research needs of the four IRGs. The CFL is a node of the Materials Characterization Laboratory, a user facility operated by the Materials Research Institute (MRI) at Penn State. Other user facilities that connect to MRSEC through MRI are the Penn State Nanofabrication Laboratory and the Materials Simulation Center (MSC). The directors of MRI, MCL, the Nanofab, and the MSC are active participants in the MRSEC. Both the MRSEC Central Facility Laboratory and the MCL are part of the Materials Research Facility Network (MRFN).


  1. Fluorescence Optical Microscope and Optical Tweezers

    Two Nikon TE2000 optical microscopes are currently in use by MRSEC members for materials characterization and dynamic motors experiments. Both are configured with fluorescence and differential interference contrast capabilities and connected to CCD cameras and monitors. One microscope, housed in Hallowell building, is used extensively for biological motor experiments and is being outfitted with an optical tweezer for measuring and manipulating motor proteins and nanoparticles.

  2. Infrared Raman

    We have designated space in the MRSEC CFL for an Acton Research TriplePro triple spectrometer and a Princeton Instruments Spec-10:100BR detector. The TriplePro spectrograph will be coupled to the existing CLF Pulsed Spectra-Physics Nd:YAG 250 Series laser. This Nd:YAG laser is combined with an Optical Parametric Oscillator (OPO) tunable from 450 nm up to 1.8 µm. The energy per pulse in this range is in the order of few tens of mJ, and the YAG laser itself can be used as a powerful (hundreds of mJ) laser source for each of its lines.

  3. Leiden 3He-4He Dilution Refrigerator

    The Leiden refrigerator has a base temperature of approximately 0.013K, and a maximum magnetic field up to 9T. This system is equipped with many leads for standard transport measurements, a low temperature coaxial cable for high frequency measurement, and capillary for cryogenic liquid experiments. Researchers in the MRSEC have used this system for heat capacity and transport measurements on superconducting and metallic nanowires.

  4. Metallic Nanowires and Porous Alumina Membrane Synthesis System

    We have developed a system to fabricate porous alumina membranes with pore size of 10-100 nm and metallic nanowires with lengths of 10-50 µm. The system contains a dc voltage supply (0-60 V, 0-2A), a multimeter, anodizing bath and depositing cell, cooling bath, heating plate and stirring plate. High quality single-crystal metallic nanowires (Au, Ag, Cu, Sn, Pb, Bi and Zn) are fabricated by controlling the deposition parameters (temperature, applied electric potential, etc.). Polycrystalline (Rh, Pt, Co, Ni) or striped nanowires (Co/Cu) are also achieved.

  5. Nanomechanical Characterization System

    Used to study the mechanical properties of nanoscale PZT cantilevers. The system consists of a small ion-pumped vacuum chamber with controlled leak back that is mounted onto the stage of a Nikon inverted microscope in the MRSEC CFL. This will allow chips with many cantilevers to be studied under ambient pressures ranging from atmospheric to 10-9 torr. Long working distance microscope objectives are used to focus a laser beam onto the oscillator through a viewport.

  6. Near-field Scanning Optical Microscope (NSOM)

    The Omicron GMBG Near-Field Optical Microscope (NSOM) with Atomic Force attachment is capable of optical and topographical measurements. It can measure optical fields with a 100 nm resolution, which is well under the diffraction limit of the conventional counterparts. During the acquisition process the NSOM measures the topography of the area of interest as well. The resolution in this mode is few nm in lateral and sub-nanometer in vertical direction.

  7. Quantum Design Model 6000 Physical Property Measurement System

    Although a broad-based instrument, MRSEC researchers mainly use this system to do transport measurements on superconducting and silicon nanowires. Electrical transport and heat capacity measurements can be carried out from 400 K down to 0.45 K and under fields as high as 9 T. The system includes an integrated, multi-channel, dc resistance bridge, calibrated thermometry, and software algorithms for measuring heat capacity.

  8. Thermal Evaporator

    The upgraded Thermionics VE-90 thermal evaporator is a versatile 3 source thermal evaporation system that has been used to deposit a variety of thin metal films to support electrical and optical characterization efforts within the MRSEC. The evaporator has a turbo-molecular pumping system, a stainless steel bell-jar with removable top plate, two 2kVA dc power supplies for three independent resistive sources, two thickness/rate controllers, and a pneumatic source shutter.

  9. UV Laser Materials Processing Workstation

    This workstation includes a Coherent Ar+ 351-nm continuous wave laser source, which is used to record information in UV sensitive polymers. This source is coupled to an optical set-up designed for creating 1-, 2-, and 3-D interference patterns with periods of less than 0.5 µm. It is currently being used to pattern a variety of materials including commercially available photoresists and polymer dispersed liquid crystals.