Transmission electron microscope project

Thermo-Fisher/FEI Spectra, 300 kV


The project consists of two phases:
The first ended in late 2020 and consisted of modifications to the CAES facility.
The second phase began in March 2021 and focuses on actual installation of the TEM. It is set for completion by summer 2021.
Go here for updates on the project.

The new TEM is more technologically advanced than any of the current TEM resources across the CAES complex in several aspects:

  • Energy resolution of less than 0.2 eV compared to 0.8 eV with current INL TEMs
    • Enables the study of stoichiometry changes in oxide fuels, chemistry of fission products in nuclear fuels, and oxidation/corrosion behavior of metals and ceramics
  • Equipped with next-generation Cs S-CORR Probe Corrector
    • Provides improved spatial resolution at low accelerating voltages, enabling analysis of light elements (Carbon, Nitrogen, and Oxygen for example)
  • Equipped with EMPAD detector, which can obtain more than 1000 diffraction patterns per second
    • Enables the capture of dynamic material behavior such as phase changes and crystallization in harsh environments
  • A broader electron energy range (30kV-300kV) for characterization than current TEMs in the CAES complex (80kV – 200kV)
    • Enables research on a wider range of materials, from those that are sensitive to high-energy electron beams to high atomic number materials such as Uranium
  • Equipped with a double-corrector (probe and image) configuration
    • Capable of achieving point-resolution close in value to the information limit of the system


How CAES benefits
CAES was built to leverage the resources at the universities and national laboratory to help solve complex energy challenges and to help develop the next generation of energy workers. The TEM will support both these efforts. The need for a robust, skilled, and diverse workforce has never been higher as the nation’s energy landscape shifts from carbon-based generation sources such as coal and natural gas to intermittent renewables. This shift has led to increased need for the research and development in energy storage and advanced nuclear reactors. The new TEM will help with the analysis and development of advanced materials that are critical to the nation’s new energy landscape.

Initially, the TEM will be a part of the Microscopy and Characterization Suite (MaCS), a Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF) laboratory accessible to students and faculty at the CAES universities and to researchers all over the world. Private industry also has access to the lab’s world-class microscopes and high-end imaging equipment. More than 1,000 visitors utilized the MaCS lab in FY19.

The ease of access of CAES not only applies to students, faculty, and private industry; its proximity to INL’s Energy Research Campus enables several INL mission areas to grow collaborative materials research programs with external partners, including the universities and industry. The TEM is INL’s latest investment in CAES that is designed to create opportunities for collaborative materials research. CAES also is equipped with complementary materials analysis instrumentation (including a Focused Ion Bean and Local Electron Atom Probe) that will enable complete sample preparation and analysis in one location.

Advanced Manufacturing focus area
Plans call for the TEM to be the centerpiece of a new Advanced Manufacturing Suite. Advanced Manufacturing is one of seven focus areas identified in the CAES Strategy, and the TEM will advance collaborative research, education, and innovation in this focus area in several ways, including:

  • Its technological advances will advance the timeline for nuclear innovation, accelerate modeling efforts needed to advance the discovery and qualification of materials for nuclear applications, and allow for the investigation of defects in functional energy materials found in batteries with atomic precision – a key step in improving battery performance.
  • It will provide a new perspective on the dynamic effects of phenomena such as irradiation damage, diffusion mechanisms and kinetics, as well as plasticity, which all must be well understood to advance materials in extreme environments such as seen in a reactor core.
  • Its state-of-the-art atomic scale chemical imaging, paired with 3D tomography capability, will enable new understanding of reacting interfaces of materials, providing immediate advances to collaborative CAES research currently under way in battery anodes, catalysis, and corrosion.