Photo of the Sample Prep lab

The Sample Preparation Facility (prepLab) is a high-precision sample preparation facility – located in 329 Cobleigh Hall. This facility allows preparation of ultra-high quality polished specimens for SEM, TEM, EDX, nano-Auger, EBSD and other microbeam analysis requiring flat, smooth, and damage-free surfaces.


Equipment includes:

Pelcon automatic petrographic thin section machine with diamond drum grinders

1. Pelcon automatic petrographic thin section machine with diamond drum grinders.

The Pelcon achieves micron-level flatness and consistent thickness for superior thin and ultra-thin sections on glass slides. Ideal for sectioning of hard and/or brittle materials including minerals/biominerals, rock, bone, ceramics, and sediments. Maximum section size 50 x 75 mm (2” x 3”).




Allied High Tech TechCut 4 precision low-speed saw

2. Allied High Tech TechCut 4 precision low-speed saw

Used for cutting small and/or delicate samples. Variable speed 0-500 rpm and sample load 0-300 grams; 0.4 mm kerf; can use water, oil, or cutting fluid as lubricant. Maximum sample size approximately 50 x 50 x 50 mm (2” x 2”  x 2”)


Allied High Tech MetPrep 3 grinder-polisher

3. Allied High Tech MetPrep 3 grinder-polisher

With PH-3 power head. Fully adjustable sample pressure (0-220 N) and platen/sample rotation speed (0-600 rpm/0-150 rpm) for efficient grinding/polishing of hard samples. Easily interchangeable grinding/polishing surfaces and media facilitates precision surface finishing on a wide range of materials.




Allied High Tech Multiprep grinder-polisher

4. Allied High Tech Multiprep grinder-polisher

With micron-adjustable sample holder for controlled sample removal. Sample advancement adjustment to 1 mm, angular positioning adjustment (+10°/-2.5°) to 0.02°, and 0-600 g sample load allow precision control of surface preparation for small (< 25 mm) metal, ceramic, and mineral samples.




Buehler Vibromet vibratory polisher

5. Buehler Vibromet vibratory polisher

Used for non-directional ultra-polishing with colloidal silica or sub-micron diamond slurry. Large 25 cm polishing surface allows polishing of large slabs or up to 12 smaller samples simultaneously. Sample holders for 25-50 mm rounds or standard 27 x 47 mm petrographic slides and variable 200-800 g sample load. The Vibromet is ideal for final polishing to remove sub-micron scratches and subsurface damage and lattice distortion in most materials prior to Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD), Auger nanoprobe, or other surface sensitive analysis.



Vacuum embedding/impregnation system

6. Vacuum embedding/impregnation system

Includes a large, 25 x 40 cm vacuum chamber. Allied High TechPC-100 positive pressure chamber allows curing at up to 2.4 bar pressure to minimize gas exsolution and maximize penetration into sub-micro pore and fractures for clear, bubble-free and encapsulation, impregnation, and embedding of any dry sample.



Nikon Optiphot POL

7. Nikon Optiphot POL

This tool reflects/transmits light through a polarizing microscope. Epi-illuminator provides a reflected light path to monitor and document progress of surface finish between preparation steps in transparent, translucent, or opaque materials. Transmitted light illumination is used with the Michel-Levy chart to monitor section thickness using interference colors of birefringent materials and to check overall section quality.   


Fee Schedule

Qualified users may use the equipment – except for the Pelcon thin sectioning machine – for a fee. The cost of all expendables is included in the fee. New users MUST complete ½ hour of training ($30) prior to using equipment. All equipment and expendable usage must be recorded in the equipment log books and all relevant safety protocols must be followed. Violation of laboratory policies will not be tolerated.

Equipment List and Prices
Equipment/service Cost Notes
$20/hour + training Self-service – Users may schedule time to grind or polish samples after ½ hour training session.
Vibratory polisher $20/batch + training Self-service – Users may schedule time to grind or polish samples after ½ hour training session.
Mounting Encapsulation Impregnation $3.00/mount + training Self-service – Users may schedule time to grind or polish samples after ½ hour training session.

Training & technical assistance


½ hour training session ($30) is required for lab use. Additional training assistance, or consulting are offered upon request at the published rate.
Pelcon thin section machine $60/section
(12 minimum)
Thin sections services can be arranged on a case-by-case basis. Email for information.


Pelcon Thin Section Machine. Microprobe/EBSD polished petrographic thin sections of encapsulated mineral mounts, rock, concrete, encapsulated sediments, bone, or other materials must be prepared by qualified technicians. We do not prepare covered thin sections. If you are interested in having thin sections made contact In general, it is not practical to process fewer than 12 thin sections in a batch. Our equipment is best suited to specialized procedures that require a high degree of user control. For routine thin section preparation, we recommend commercial petrography labs that offer high-quality preparation at reasonable rates.  

Thin section preparation Resources

To Use the prepLab

Equipment must be schedule through the online Clustermarket scheduling utility. To request an account and to schedule required training contact Colin Shaw at