Policies at NCFL


Operating Policies

The Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Laboratory, a facility operated by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS), operates and maintains sophisticated scientific equipment to support the research activities of Virginia Tech, the broader academic community, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. NCFL Instrument Specialists supervise the instruments, provide user training, develop characterization techniques and guide researchers in applying the equipment to specific research problems.

Instrument Rates, Scheduling Instrument Time

The equipment in the NCFL is available on a cost basis to members of the academic research community and to industry. A table of current rates as of June 1, 2019.


(per hr)
Academic, Non-porfit
(per hr)
(per hr)
Technical Assistance
and Training*
$50 $81 $81
Technical assistance and training is an hourly rate for NCFL staff time; it is added to the instrument rates below while NCFL staff personnel are training users or operating the instruments.
FE-SEM $35 $56 $80
E-SEM $35 $56 $80
FIB $40 $64 $90
FIB standard liftout
(per sample)
$550 $880 $1000
after-hour use 7pm to 7am
TEM, EM 420 $25 $40 $60
TEM, JEOL 2100 $45 $72 $100
TEM, Titan 80-300 $60 $97 $145
SIMS $58 $93 $275
XPS $30 $48 $95
XPS surface survey 1
(per sample)
$20 $32 $79
AFM, Multimode $15 $24 $36
AFM Sample Prep $21 $34 $51
3D Optical Microscope $15 $24 $36
Triboindenter $20 $32 $48
Polishing Papers and Cloths 2 $2 $3 $5
Polishing Sample Prep 3 $2 $3 $5
SEM Sample Prep 4 $15 $24 $36
TEM Sample Prep 5 $15 $24 $36
Cryo-Ultramicrotome $22 $35 $48
Raman-AFM $20 $32 $53
UV-Vis-NIR $5 $8 $13
DLS $12 $19 $32
BET $10 $16 $26

1.  XPS surface survey (per sample): This is an optional rate based on cost per survey spectrum; only applies for samples run by instrument manager.

2.  Polishing Papers and Cloths: This rate is per grinding paper or polishing cloth.

3.  Polishing sample prep: This rate is per sample; it applies to the following equipment: (1) Buehler EcoMet 3000, (2) Buehler EcoMet 250, (3) Buehler MiniMet, (4) Buehler Isomet Diamond Saw, and (5)  MTI low speed saw (6) Ultrasonic Disc Cutter, (7) Dimple Grinder.

4. SEM sample prep: This per run rate applies to the following equipment: (1) Leica Ion Slicer, (2) Leica Double Sputter Coater, (3) Cressington Sputter Coater (4) Cressington Carbon Coater, (5) SPI Carbon Coater, (6) Allied MultiPrep, (7) Profilometer.

5. TEM sample prep: This rate per hour applies to the following equipment: (1) Gatan PIPS II ion polisher , (2) Gatan Solarus II plasma cleaner.

Instrument rates are classified under the following categories:

  • Virginia Tech research: Internal Rates apply for researchers with a Virginia Tech account. To arrange instrument use, please complete an Internal Service Request Form (ISR) and bring it with you to your instrument session.
  • University and nonprofit research: External Federal Rates apply for researchers from other academic or non-profit institutions. To arrange instrument use, please complete the Work Order form, and obtain a purchase order from your institution.
  • Federal contract research being performed by private industry: External Federal Rates apply. To arrange instrument use, please complete the Work Order form (be sure to fill out and sign the funding certification section), and obtain a purchase order from your institution.
  • Analytical fee-for-service work for industry: External Market Rates apply. To arrange instrument use, please complete the Work Order form obtain a purchase order from your institution.

Please contact the appropriate Instrument Specialist to discuss instrument capabilities, availability, and training.

Online reservations for selected instruments can be made via the Web Scheduling.


A small pool of instrument time is available to Virginia Tech personnel for:

  • Instructional purposes and demonstrations.
  • To complete a sponsored research program with insufficient funds.
  • To collect preliminary data for external proposals.

To request Mini-Grant support, read the guidelines and email your request to ncflminigrants@vt.edu using the NCFL-MiniGrant-Form.

Physical Access

The NCFL building is staffed with Instrument Specialist and a receptionist weekdays from 8:00 to 5:00. Researchers can request access to the instruments or research labs in the building through one of the Instrument Specialist. After hours access to NCFL instruments is available to users who have undergone training and are approved to operate an instrument without supervision.

Training Policy

Users who wish to use an NCFL instrument without the supervision of an NCFL instrument specialists must complete the appropriate Training Sessions and become an approved operator. Training Sessions cover instrument operation and safety procedures as well as techniques for obtaining useful information. For example, training sessions in Scanning Electron Microscopy introduce:

  • Basic SEM operating parameters and principles (selecting accelerating voltage, working distance, imaging modes, correcting astigmatism, etc).
  • EDX Spectroscopy and OIM.
  • Instrument-specific training (on the Zeiss 1550 FE-SEM, the FEI Quanta 600 FEG, or the Helios NanoLab 600).

Training sessions are scheduled by appointment with an instrument specialist and include charges for the instrument and staff time. The total time needed for the student to show competence on the instrument will be determined by the  Instrument Specialist.