Facilities for Materials Characterization

The CTRI (formerly the Institute for Research in Materials) has operated the Facilities for Materials Characterization (FMC) which has operated as a multi-user facility since 2004. With the recent success of the CFI funded “Advanced Sustainable Energy Technology (ASET) Research Program”, FMC is adding to the equipment it currently manages. Another recently funded CFI project, “Next Generation Manufacturing of Advanced Ceramics (NG-MAC)”, led by CTRI members will add to the research materials characterization infrastructure available at Dalhousie University.

In addition to the instrumentation directly managed by the CTRI, Dalhousie University researchers have access to a wide variety of instruments that can perform a range of analytical functions.  The instruments have been categorized based on function and technique. The instruments listed here are a small fraction of what may be available at Dalhousie.


Instrument function can be broadly divided into the following types. Most instrumental techniques can characterize materials in more than one of these modes, however sensitivity, selectivity and spatial information vary. As a result, these techniques are often complementary, and the appropriate combination will be dependent on the sample and the questions you are asking. We have significant expertise in these areas and can help determine what approach may be best given the circumstances.

 provides surface spatial information. This includes morphological as in the case of scanning probe microscopy or chemical as in the case of Raman microscopy.

Elemental analysis provides information about the various elements present in a sample as in the case of laser ablation mass spectrometry and in some cases the oxidation state as in the case of x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.

Identification of a material often requires information about atomic arrangement as in the case of x-ray diffraction or chemical bonding as in the case of infrared or nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

Thin film and nanoparticle characterization can provide information of thickness and size. For example dynamic light scattering will provide average particle size of particles in a suspension and ellipsometry can provide film thickness and dielectric constant.

Structural information can be obtained ranging from ordering at the atomic level with standard x-ray diffraction up to larger-scale molecular structures with wide angle x-ray diffraction.

Bulk properties of materials can be obtain including magnetic properties, dielectric constant, conductivity and hardness.


Techniques can be divided into the following categories

Microscopy provides spatial information about materials

Spectroscopy or spectrometry measures the interaction of energy with matter

Diffraction or scattering uses interference or elastic interaction of energy with matter

Thermal analysis
 - uses heat energy to examine phase changes or decomposition in a sample

Other Dalhousie Facilities

Robert M. MacKay Electron Microprobe Laboratory
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Research Resource
Minerals Engineering Centre

Allied Centres and Institutes

Centre for Water Resource Studies
Centre for Research in Sustainable Supply Chain Analytics
Atlantic Soil Health Lab