Microstructural Studies Unit

Our MicroStructural Studies Unit (MSSU), the electron microscopy facility of the University of Surrey, was established in 1970 to support a wide range of research activities across the University and to offer electron microscopy services to industry.


After 50 years of continuous development, we employ experienced microscopists and house a comprehensive range of state-of-the-art instruments such as, transmission electron microscopes (TEM), scanning electron microscopes (SEM) and sample preparation equipment.

Our unit is essential for a wide range of ongoing research projects and makes a significant contribution to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. Research activities are numerous but presently include nanoparticles and nanocomposites (all material types), opto-electronic materials, advanced metallurgical structures, metal to polymer interfacial studies, etc.


We work in close collaboration with the Surface Analysis Laboratory here at the University. A combination of state-of-the-art instrumentation, expertise in data interpretation and materials knowledge, enables experienced academics and technical staff to select the right combination of techniques for undertaking materials related research and development or solving technical problems.

Such work includes product development, failure analysis, process problems, surface contaminants, verification of material composition and so forth.

How we can help you

In the past few years we have undertaken work for more than 50 different clients. We have worked to develop links with the local community and we are proud to offer electron microscopy services to many technological businesses and research organisations in the south east of England.

Our portfolio of clients encompasses both the public and private sector and their custom is highly valued. We offer competitive rates for SEM, STEM and TEM analytical work.

If you have a particular research problem and would like further information on sponsoring a PhD project where a student can come work for you then contact a member of staff in your area of interest. You can also find further information on becoming a sponsor for our EngD course on the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Micro- and NanoMaterials and Technologies (MiNMaT) website.

Available instruments

Listed below are the instruments we have here at the University. If you are interested in having a sample analysed, then please get in touch.


Student using the JEOL JSM-7100F scanning electron microscope

The JEOL JSM-7100F is a highly versatile, easy-to-use analytical field emission scanning electron microscope (SEM). It has a spatial resolution of 1.2 nm at 30 kV. The MSSU microscope is fitted with a Thermo Scientific triple analysis system, featuring an UltraDry EDS detector, a MagnaRay parallel beam WDS spectrometer and a Lumis system for electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD).

All three analytical functions are integrated into a single Thermo Fisher “Pathfinder” data system to allow integration between these three complementary techniques.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Apreo SEM

Student using the Thermo Fisher Scientific Apreo SEM

The new Thermo Scientific Apreo SEM offers high-performance imaging and X-ray analysis to researchers at all levels of microscopy expertise. It can achieve a resolution of 0.8 nm.

With Thermo Scientific ColorSEM Technology, a unique live elemental imaging capability, EDS compositional information is always readily and quickly accessed through easy-to-use interface. A range of external and in-lens detectors can display images simultaneously, giving excellent resolution across a wide range of acceleration voltage.

Hitachi S3200N SEM

Student using the Hitachi S3200N scanning electron microscope

The HITACHI S3200N is a versatile instrument with a large specimen chamber. With ETD secondary electron and back scattered electron detectors for imaging and a variable pressure mode (VP-SEM) allowing the examination of non-conducting and ‘wet’ samples with no special sample preparation.

Combined with an Oxford X-Act EDS detector and Inca software for qualitative/quantitative elemental analysis, this SEM is a workhorse for investigating all manner of problematic samples.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Talos 200i TEM

Screenshot of a Thermo Fisher Scientific Talos 200i TEM

The Thermo Fisher Talos (S)TEM is a 200kV field emission (scanning) transmission electron microscope uniquely designed for performance and productivity across a wide range of Materials Science samples and applications.

Keyence VHX-7000 digital microscope

Keyence VHX-7000 digital microscope

Easy to use following the steps on the user interface and “help” videos. Variety of segmented coaxial or ring lamp illumination with 3-axis stage movement to provide larger area high resolution tile scans and/or 3-D information. Polarising and Differential Image Contrast (DIC) options. Post processing options for dimensional measurements, contamination/grain size/shape analysis, surface profile and roughness.

Find an expert

If you would like to use our services then please email our unit manager, David Jones, to discuss your problem.

Mark J. Whiting profile image

Dr Mark Whiting

Associate Professor of Metallurgy, Director of the Centre for Engineering Materials

Man using nano equipment


Research within our Centre addresses ceramics, polymers and metals, as well as composite materials consisting of two or more of these materials, and explores a range of applications where such materials are being used to bring about improved performance or new products.