Initial Publication Date: August 13, 2012

Electron Microprobe Laboratory

University of Utah

Contact Information

Barbara Nash


Salt Lake City


Instrument Type

Electron Microbeam: EMPA electron microprobe; wavelength dispersive spectrometers

Cameca SX-50


Typical Use:

The laboratory provides high precision quantitative non-destructive analysis of solid materials at the micron scale through electron beam X-ray spectroscopy. Our instrument is a Cameca model SX-50 electron microprobe equipped with four wavelength-dispersive X-ray spectrometers (WDS). Through a flexible array of diffracting crystals, the instrument is capable of analysis of elements boron through uranium. WDS microanalysis provides superior detection limits and spectral resolution to standard SEM/EDS systems. Under nominal operating conditions, typical detection limits are 300 ppm, and precision for major elements is on the order of 1% of the amount present. Recent developments in analyzing trace elements allow for detection limits of <15 ppm, such as for trace concentrations of titanium in quartz.

Conditions for Use:

  • Visitors are invited to work in the lab to work with lab personnel
  • Visitors are invited to work in the lab to design and do the work yourself

User Fees:

Instrument time

University of Utah:

Off campus academic & non-profit:


Staff assistance with analysis design, data acquisition and analysis

Carbon coating of samples

Instrument Priorities:

The Electron Microprobe Laboratory is a designated niversity Core Facility that provides state-of-the-art analyses of solid materials and technical expertise to researchers - faculty and students - at the University of Utah. The laboratory is open to all researchers at the University as well as those from other academic institutions, government agencies and commercial entities.

Remote Use:

Not at the present time, but it is in the works.

Sample Preparation:

Epoxy grain mounts and thin sections

High precision quantitative analysis requires an optically flat, polished surface. Users may provide appropriately polished samples, either mounted in epoxy or as thin sections. Standard mount sizes are 1" (25mm) round mounts with maximum height of 1" (~1/2" is preferred), or standard U.S. thin sections; round 25 mm thin sections are also acceptable. Unusual and larger sizes can be accommodated but need to be approved in advance.

If you require assistance in fabricating polished thin sections or epoxy mounts, please consult U of U Sample Preparation Services .

The lab provides carbon coating of samples with our newly installed Denton Benchtop Turbo IV high vacuum evaporator. In order to analyze glass samples for oxygen, we require that each mount contain our standard obsidian so that the samples and standard have the identical thickness of carbon coating. We can supply the standard, or we can prepare the mount with the standard.

Standard Collections/Lab Blanks:


Educational Use:

  • Class demonstrations are available for undergraduates
  • Class demonstrations are available for K-12
  • Undergraduate student research projects are invited
  • Graduate student research projects are invited

Lab web site:

Support provided by:

Partial support for the laboratory comes from the National Science Foundation, and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences and Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah.