Dedicated to materials characterization, assays, and sample processing, the UC San Diego MRSEC-MCF is a user and service facility associated with the UC San Diego Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, funded by the National Science Foundation.  We are a member of the Materials Research Facilities Network, a nationwide partnership of Shared Experimental Facilities supported by the National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs).

Location: We are located on the Main Campus of the University of California, San Diego

Facility offices: Pacific Hall, room 4140
Instrumentation is housed in the MRSEC facilities rooms on the 4th floor of Pacific Hall. Some instruments are housed in other locations. See "Details and rates" sections below for the location of each individual instrument.

Access to the equipment in the facility operates under three modalities:

(1) samples can be submitted for analysis by the facility staff (Consultation-non-training fee is applied in addition to instrument usage fee)
(2) user trainees can run samples under the guidance of facility staff (Consultation-Training fee is applied in addition to instrument usage fee)
(3) trained users can sign up for the instrument and run their own samples (instrument usage fee only).

For modality (1), samples from third parties are received and returned under a material transfer agreement (contact the Facility Manager). For modality (3), users must first be trained and checked out on an instrument by the facility staff (modality 2). Thus there is an additional charge if a staff member is involved in either running of samples or training of a user. Alternatively, the UC San Diego MRSEC RIMSE program held each summer provides an immersive introduction and training on most of the available instrumentation in this facility. Additional facilities in support of materials fabrication and characterization (and nanotechnology in particular) are available in UCSD's San Diego Nanotechnology Infrastructure (SDNI).

Facility Manager: Ricardo De Luna


Facility Funding Acknowledgement:

We ask that any publications or presentations acknowledge use of these MRSEC-supported facilities with the following statement: “The authors acknowledge the use of facilities and instrumentation supported by NSF through the UC San Diego Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (UCSD MRSEC), grant # DMR-2011924”

The following equipment is available on a recharge basis:

(new rates effective October 2023; Instrument rates are for usage only)

Contact angle

Goniometer (ramé-hart™ Model 200) for measuring contact angle, surface tension, and surface energy on flat surfaces. Includes a manual Tilting Base for measuring advancing and receding contact angles. Also includes an environmental fixture for measuring liquid/liquid interactions; the fixture is primarily used for captive bubble analysis of hydrogels in solution with air drops released from an inverted needle.

Details and rates

Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS)

Malvern Instruments™ Zetasizer Nano™ for determination of nanoparticle size and charge. Features Multi Purpose Titrator for zeta potential measurements.

Details and rates

Wyatt DynaPro 3 dynamic light scattering in a plate reader

Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS) and Static Light Scattering (SLS) Plate Reader

Wyatt Instruments DynaPro® Plate Reader III measures DLS and SLS in a plate reader format, allowing rapid measurement of nanoparticle size of up to 386 samples in a single run. Measures average nanoparticle size and number density, aggregate size distributions, changes in solution molecular weight, thermal stability, colloidal stability, and viscosity. Variable temperature-capable.

Details and rates

Electrochemical etching apparatus

Keithley™ 2460 Sourcemeter, with computer interface. For voltage or current-controlled electrochemical processing of materials. Can be used to fabricate photonic crystals, Bragg stacks, microcavities, Fabry-Perot layers, microparticles, nanoparticles, and quantum dots from single-crystal silicon wafers.

Details and rates

Fluorescence microscope

Nikon™ Eclipse LV-150 dark-field microscope coupled with a photometrics CCD camera for steady-state fluorescence imaging.

Details and rates

Four-point probe conductivity station

Keithley™ DMM 7510 multimeter, pneumatically actuated probe station, and micrometer thickness gauge for wafer resistivity measurements.

Details and rates

Furnaces and Ovens

The facility has several furnaces and ovens that can be used for sample processing:

Tube Furnace: Lindberg/Blue Mini-Mite model TF55035A. For heating of samples up to 1100°C under a controlled atmosphere (air, nitrogen, argon, forming gas).

Details and rates

Vacuum Oven: Fisher Scientific Isotemp model 280A. For heating of samples up to 300°C under reduced pressure.  Vacuum typically 200 mTorr.

Details and rates

Muffle (Box) Furnace: For heating of larger samples up to 1000°C in air. Typically used for atmospheric oxidation of samples.

Details and rates

Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC)

Shimadsu™ LC-2050 GPC with Wyatt Instruments™ MALS light scattering, OptiLab differential refractive index detectors. Columns for aqueous media (for protein separations), or organic media (for polymer characterization) available.

Details and rates

Nicolet iS50 FTIR spectrometer

Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR)

Nicolet™ iS50 and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer, fitted with Smart-iTR™ diamond Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) attachment for ATR measurements; instrument can also be configured for transmission mode measurements, with a variety of gas, liquid, and solid sample cells available.

Details and rates

Optical Spectrometers (Absorbance, Specular Reflectance, Optical Interference, Diffuse Reflectance, Fluorescence, Photoluminescence)

The facility has an extensive collection of optical spectrometers that can be configured to measure a wide range of optical properties of materials.  The suite includes:

  • Thermo Scientific™ Nano-Drop 2000™ for quantifying protein, DNA, RNA, and small molecule concentrations
  • Quantaurus-QY™ C11347 for absolute photoluminescence quantum yields and excitation-emission matrix (EEM) spectra from solid or liquid samples
  • Ocean Optics™ USB-4000™ and USB-2000™ CCD spectrometers for absorbance and reflectance measurements
  • Ocean Optics™ QEPro™ and QE65000™ thermoelectrically cooled CCD spectrometers  for low-light applications such as photoluminescence and fluorescence measurements
  • ANDOR iSTAR 334T high-speed thermoelectrically cooled intensified CCD (iCCD) camera for time-gated photoluminescence spectroscopy measurements at a temporal resolution of 8 nanoseconds
  • ThorLabs™ APD430x adjustable gain avalanche photodetectors (APD) with 4-stage 2x pre-amplifiers and storage oscilloscope for single-element, single-wavelength detection with a temporal resolution of 50 nanoseconds.

Pulsed light sources include:

  • Horiba™ DeltaDiode 375nm picosecond pulsed laser excitation source
  • Oxxius LBX-405nm laser excitation source.

Steady-state excitation sources include various blue (405, 450, 480nm) and UV (365, 370, 385nm) light-emitting diodes (for PL) and broadband deuterium-halogen and tungsten-halogen continuous light sources (for absorbance or spectral reflectance measurements).

Various sample holders can accommodate liquid, solid, and thin film samples. The detection optics can be focused to < 1mm spot size. Most of the spectrometers are coupled with fiber optic attachments, microscope optics, and light sources for acquisition of optical absorbance, optical reflectance, and Fabry-Perot interference data.  Click on the links above for individual experiments, descriptions, and rates.

Ozone cleaner (UV-ozone)

Bioforce™ ProCleaner™ Plus UV ozone cleaner for surface oxidation and removal of organic contaminants from inert surfaces. Coverage area is 4” x 5” (100mm x 125mm)

Details and rates

Ozone generator (large scale)

Ozone Solutions™ OZV-8 ozone generator.  This is a large volume ozone generator, for ozonolysis, ashing of organics, or cleaning of large samples.   For smaller samples (of dimensions 10 cm x 12.5 cm or less) use the Bioforce™ ProCleaner™ Plus UV ozone cleaner.

Details and rates

Plate Reader: Fluorescence, Luminescence, and Absorbance

Molecular Devices™ SpectraMax® iD5 Multi-Mode Microplate Reader measures absorbance, fluorescence, and luminescence. The iD5 also measures TRF and FP.

Details and rates

Porosimetry-Gas Sorption Analyzer (BET)

Anton Paar™ Quantachrome autosorbIQ automated gas sorption analyzer for measurement of chemisorption (hydrogen, methane, other reactive gases) and physisorption (nitrogen) processes.  The physisorption mode allows acquisition of data to determine surface area (via BET analysis of the isotherm), average pore size (via BJH or DFT isotherm models), and pore volume (via BJH or DFT isotherm models) on non-porous, mesoporous, and microporous materials. Featuring an extended range physisorption and chemisorption pressure transducer, system is capable of determining specific surface areas below 0.01 m2/g, active areas, pore volumes, and pore size distributions down to 0.35 nm in solid porous samples. Unit has 4 degas and 3 analysis ports for physisorption measurements on multiple samples simultaneously. Note sample degas and isotherm acquisition can require several hours of instrument time per run.  Mesopore samples usually require ~4hrs total; micropore samples generally require longer degas times and so can require up to 18h of analysis time. The mass of sample needed for analysis depends on its surface area; recommended total surface area for a surface area measurement is 2 m2 and for a pore size measurement it is 10 m2.  So for example if your sample has a specific surface area of 200 m2/g, it will require ~50 mg of material for a good analysis. The facility also maintains the older and slower Micromeritics™ ASAP 2020 gas adsorption/surface area measurement apparatus.


Hourly Rate: UC Users: $25  // non-UC Users: $36.25

Quartz Crystal Microbalance (QCM)

Biolin Scientific™ QSense Explorer™ for real-time analysis of surface-molecule interactions, thickness (or mass), viscosity, shear modulus and the frequency dependence of the viscosity and shear modulus. Kinetics, slope, rise time. Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation Monitoring (QCM-D) technology

For the SOP on this instrument, contact the Facility Manager

Hourly Rate: UC Users: $55  // non-UC Users: $79.75

Raman microscopes

Renishaw™ inVia™ upright microscope with x-y mapping stage. 532nm and 785nm laser sources. Due to heavy usage, the Facility has two of these instruments available for use, one in Pacific Hall and the other in the Structural and Materials Engineering (SME) building.


Hourly Rate: UC Users: $50  // non-UC Users: $72.50


TA Instruments™ Discovery™ HR-30 Hybrid Rheometer. For characterizing a wide range of rheologic and viscoelastic properties of soft and solid materials: elastic modulus, viscous modulus, shear modulus, storage modulus, loss modulus, dynamic mechanical analysis, etc.

For the SOP on this instrument, contact the Facility Manager

Hourly Rate: UC Users: $55  // non-UC Users: $79.75

Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM, benchtop)

Phenom G6 Pro SEM from nanoScience Instruments™ (Thermo Fisher™) with a cesium hexaboride source. This benchtop instrument is for users who do not need the very high resolution of the state-of-the-art SEM and TEM instruments available at the UCSD Nano-3 facility. Situated between confocal optical microscopy and these high-end electron microscopes in terms of resolution, the instrument provides a user-friendly entry point for persons not familiar with electron microscopy.  Back-scattered detection (BSD), secondary electron detection (SED), or mixed detection are available. Magnification range of 160-350,000x. A single-stub stage supports sample sizes up to 25mm x 35 mm. Sample introduction is very rapid: 18 seconds between initial pump-down and image acquisition. A sample charging reduction stage is available (BSD mode) for samples that cannot be sputter coated.  A Luxor Sputter Coater is also available, for inverted coating (argon atmosphere) of up to 7 sample stubs with platinum layers of thickness 1-100nm to reduce charging in the electron beam. Can be used for sample drying as well. UC users: $15/coating run; Non UC users: $21.75/coating run.  Up to 7 sample stubs can be included in a single coating run.

Hourly Rate: UC Users: $55  // non-UC Users: $79.75

Spin Coater

Laurell Model WS-400B-6NPP/LITE spin-coater for depositing thin films onto flat surfaces up to 6 inches (150mm) diameter.


Hourly Rate: UC Users: $10  // non-UC Users: $14.50

Thermogravimetric Analyzer/Differential Scanning Calorimeter with Mass Spectral Evolved Gas Analyzer (TGA-DSC-MS)

TA Instruments™ Discovery SDT 650™ simultaneous DSC/TGA. An MKS Cirrus 3 mass spectral analyzer is attached, allowing measurement of evolved gases up to 300 amu. Equipped with autosampler robot to load up to 30 samples. Can use nitrogen, oxygen, or air ambients. There is an additional charge for sample pans. Sample pans are re-usable but many users prefer to have their own dedicated pan to avoid possible cross-contamination from other users: charge for TGA sample pan for UC users: $16/pan; Non UC users: $21/pan


Hourly Rate: UC Users: $30  // non-UC Users: $43.50

Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC)

Thermo Scientific™ Dionex™ UltiMate™ 3000 UHPLC. Pressures up to 620 bar (9,000 psi) at flow rates of up to 10 mL/min, detector data collection rates up to 100 Hz, and injection cycle times as low as 15 s, supports conventional LC and UHPLC applications.


Hourly Rate: UC Users: $30  // non-UC Users: $43.50

X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF)

Epsilon 1™ XRF from Malvern Panalytical™ for elemental composition analysis of trace (ppm to ppb), major, and minor elements from sodium to americium. More quantitative than the energy dispersive x-ray spectrometers (EDS) typically attached to many electron microscopes, the XRF measures samples under ambient conditions, so it can analyze both liquid and solid samples, powders, and samples contained in plastic or glass containers. Sample compartment is also substantially larger than standard SEM chambers, and so the instrument can accommodate larger samples.  No calibrations are required with Omnium Factory Calibration method.


Hourly Rate: UC Users: $40  // non-UC Users: $58


Access to instrumentation is provided to users after training, which varies from instrument to instrument.

Hourly Rate: UC Users: $50  // non-UC Users: $72.50


If you do not want to run the samples yourself, they can be run for you by our trained staff. This includes preparation and processing of user-supplied samples. Benchtop, fume hood, and Class II biosafety cabinet facilities are available. Charges here are in addition to the hourly instrument usage rates listed above.

Hourly Rate: UC Users: $35  // non-UC Users: $50.75

Can't find what you need here? There are several other major user facilities on the UC San Diego campus that provide instrumentation relevant to materials characterization:

Scanning electron microscope (SEM), transmission electron microscope (TEM), scanning tunneling microscope (STM), atomic force microscope (AFM) are available at the UC San Diego Nano3 facility. Various other semiconductor characterization and clean-room tools such as e-beam and photo-lithography are available. Nano3 is the main facility of the San Diego Nanotechnology Infrastructure (SDNI), which is one of 16 nation-wide sites of the NSF-supported National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI).

X-Ray Powder Diffractometer (Powder XRD) Bruker D8 Advance powder diffractometer using Cu Kα (1.5418 Å) radiation (40 kV, 40 mA). This instrument is managed by the UCSD Crystallography Facility. It also manages several single-crystal diffractometers. Several additional powder XRD instruments are available via recharge at the San Diego Nanotechnology Infrastructure (SDNI).

Small Angle X-ray Scattering/Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS/WAXS) is available through via recharge through the San Diego Nanotechnology Infrastructure (SDNI).