Analytical Microscopy and Imaging Science

NREL uses transmission/scanning electron and scanning probe techniques to measure the chemical, structural, morphological, electrical, interfacial, and luminescent properties on the nano to Angstrom scale.

We investigate such properties in a wide range of photovoltaic and semiconducting materials, with particular emphasis on extended defects and interfaces and how these affect device performance. A powerful approach for further device improvements is the linking of nano- and sub-nanoscale material and device properties to macro-scale device performance.


The following capabilities are used in NREL research, as well as in collaborative research with the Colorado School of Mines as part of the International Center for Multiscale Characterization.

Scanning Electron Microscopy

We use field-emission scanning electron microscopy to analyze the morphology/microstructure with high-spatial resolution (up to 1.2 nm). Backscattered-electrons mode allows for elemental-sensitive imaging.

Transmission/Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy

We investigate the structure and chemistry of a wide range of materials, with particular emphasis on the structure and chemistry associated with defects and interfaces using transmission electron microscopy and scanning transmission electron microscopy.

Scanning Probe Microscopy

We use scanning probe microscopy to provide surface images at up to atomic scale and other valuable high-resolution data.

Dual-Beam Sample Preparation

Our FEI Nova 200 Nanolab is used for multiple tasks at NREL. The primary task is sample preparation for high-resolution transmission electron microscopy/scanning transmission electron microscopy analysis. 


The Materials Science Center is part of the Materials, Chemical, and Computational Science directorate, led by Associate Lab Director Bill Tumas.