E&ES SEM Facility

Devlin Hall 316 (my office and research lab) is home to our recently upgraded Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Facility within the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Boston College. The workhorse of this facility is a Tescan Mira 3 Schottky Field Emission SEM that can be operated in either high-vacuum or variable pressure modes, allowing for the characterization of coated or non-conductive specimens.

This FEG-SEM is equipped with a range of analytical detectors for materials imaging and characterization, including: secondary electron, backscattered electron, and cathodoluminescence detectors. Critical to the work done in my research group is our recently upgraded Oxford Instruments Symmetry electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) detector which is integrated with an X-Max 50 Silicon Drift Detector, thus allowing for the rapid determination of crystallographic fabrics (i.e. lattice preferred orientations), patterns of rock microstructure (textural mapping), and semi-quantitative mineralogical and compositional maps used in structural, deformation, and materials studies.

Supporting instrumentation for the SEM lab includes:

  1. An EMS 150TE turbomolecular pumped Carbon Coater for producing very thin conductive coatings used in imaging, EDS, and EBSD analyses
  2. A Struers LabPol-5 sample polishing system;
  3. Buehler MiniMet and Vibromet2 polishers used for EBSD sample surface preparation
  4. A digital camera-equipped petrographic microscope (Zeiss Axioskop 40) and macroscope (Leica Z6 APO) for transmitted and reflected light observation and imaging of polished thin sections
  5. A variety of computer workstations for post-processing and data analysis.

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences also hosts a range of sample preparation equipment including jaw crushers, disc mills, a Wilfley table, assorted grinders and shatter boxes, and slab / rock saws that are used for mineral separation or the preparation of rock chips (i.e. billets) to be sent out for the production of commercial thin sections. Boston College also completed the construction of a new mineral separation laboratory within our department that includes a variety of instruments that may be used to support microstructural and petrologic studies, including a Frantz magnetic separator, fume hoods and environmentally friendly heavy liquids separation, and digital camera-equipped binocular microscopes for hand-picking and/or sample characterization.

More than just a research tool!

The E&ES SEM facility is not only integral for fueling research, but it also serves as a vital tool helping to fulfill our teaching mission within the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences. Faculty routinely make use of the SEM facility in their courses through lectures and demonstrations, in laboratory exercises, and as part of student-lead research projects. By making use of this facility in both capacities, it allows us to provide an unrivaled experiential learning environment for students to immerse themselves in the scientific method through inquiry, observation, analysis, and discovery using world-class, cutting edge scientific instrumentation.

This is one of many outstanding science facilities at Boston College that was featured in the recent announcement of the forthcoming Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society. To see more of what BC has to offer and the exciting new things to come, please watch the video below!

Lab specialization & primary uses

  • Electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) analysis
  • Microstructural and textural analysis
  • Phase identification and chemical characterization of earth materials
  • Cathodoluminescence imaging of accessory phases for geochronology
  • High resolution imaging and materials characterization
  • Student teaching and research

Featured publications from the lab

Using incremental elongation and shearing to unravel the kinematics of a complex transpressional zone

Journal Article
Xypolias, P., Gerogiannis, N., Chatzaras, V., Papapavlou, K., Kruckenberg, S.C., Aravadinou, E., and Michels, Z.
Journal of Structural Geology; doi: 10.1016/j.jsg.2018.07.004
Publication year: 2018

Cretaceous partial melting, deformation, and exhumation of the Potters Pond migmatite domain, west-central Idaho

Journal Article
Montz, W.J. and Kruckenberg, S.C.
Lithosphere; 9 (2): 205-222. doi: 10.1130/L555.1
Publication year: 2017

Axial-type olivine crystallographic preferred orientations: the effect of strain geometry on mantle texture.

Journal Article
Chatzaras, V., Kruckenberg, S.C., Cohen, S., Medaris Jr., L.G., Withers, A.C., and Bagley, B.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth; 121 (7): 4895-4922. doi: 10.1002/2015JB012628
Publication year: 2016

Microstructural and geochemical constraints on the evolution of deep arc lithosphere

Journal Article
Chin, E.J., Soustelle, V., Hirth, G., Saal, A., Kruckenberg, S.C., and Eiler, J.
Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems; 17 (7): 2497-2521. doi: 10.1002/2015GC006156
Publication year: 2016

Determining vorticity axes from grain- scale dispersion of crystallographic orientations

Journal Article
Michels, Z.D., Kruckenberg, S.C., Davis, J.R., and Tikoff, B.
Geology; 43 (9): 803-806. doi: 10.1130/G36868.1
Publication year: 2015

Strain localization associated with channelized melt migration in upper mantle lithosphere: insights from the Twin Sisters ultramafic complex, Washington, USA.

Journal Article
Kruckenberg, S.C., Tikoff, B., Toy, V.G., Newman, J., and Young, L.
Journal of Structural Geology; 50: 133-147. doi: 10.1016/j.jsg.2012.10.009
Publication year: 2013