Initial Publication Date: April 30, 2021

Geosciences Atom Probe Tomography at the University of Alabama

The University of Alabama

Contact Information

Alberto Perez-Huerta

+1 205-348-8382



Instrument Type


  • Atom Probe Tomography (APT)
  • Polishing (microprobe quality, colloidal Si)
  • Sample Coating (C, Au, Ir, others)
  • Focused Ion Beam (ion milling)


Applications include:
  • Identification of phases
  • Composition (elemental) of phases
  • Elemental mapping, compositional zoning
  • Trace element analysis
  • Structure (atomic) of minerals (diffraction methods)
  • Surface chemistry (sorption, catalysis)
  • Depth profiling (chemical stratigraphy, nanometer scale)
  • Dissolution/precipitation of phases
  • Imaging (size, shape, morphology)
  • Crystallographic orientation
  • Distribution in matrix (disseminated, aggregated...)
  • Textural relations (intergrowths, overgrowths, epitaxial...)
  • Interfaces

Typical Use:

Atom probe tomography (APT) offers the 3D highest spatial resolution for the chemical characterization of materials. It was reported to successfully produce a 3D reconstruction of atoms or molecules, with a spatial resolution better than 0.3 nm in all directions, and high analytical sensitivity of 1 ppm for volumes greater than 106 nm3. Furthermore, APT has been shown to reliably resolve layered structures for materials in the fields of electronics and semiconductors at the sub-nanometer. The recent advances in the atom probe technique have allowed the analysis of synthetic ceramic and insulator materials, including geological samples. With the advent of a new generation of LEAP instruments with different flight paths and higher detector efficiencies, APT is becoming increasingly important for the nanoscale analysis of the chemical composition of geological materials.

Conditions for Use:

  • Submitted samples will be analyzed on a contract basis (i.e. lab personnel will do the work)
  • Visitors are invited to work in the lab to work with lab personnel

User Fees:

The AARC Facility ( is open to all users and details about instrument use, and staff contact details, can be found in the website. For specific application of APT to geological materials, users are recommend to contact Dr. Alberto Perez-Huerta (

Instrument Priorities:

Remote Use:


Sample Preparation:

See for specifics about sample preparation

Standard Collections/Lab Blanks:



See for specifics about data processing

Educational Use:

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

Support provided by:

For the APT Geosciences research, we greatly acknowledge funding support from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) [EAR #1647012, 1560779, 1402912]