The Conn Center's core facilities that can be accessed through the service center include (a) a comprehensive array of equipment for characterizing both inorganic and soft materials using a variety of microscopy, spectroscopy and diffraction tools; (b) ultrafast, transient spectroscopy facilities for analyzing electron transfer processes at femtosecond time scale resolution; and (c) fabrication and test facilities for various energy conversion and storage devices such as biomass to biofuels, proton exchange membrane fuel cells, dye, organic and thin film solar cells, and lithium ion batteries.

For more information, contact the facility Director, Dr. Jacek Jasinski, by phone at 502-852-6338 or by e-mail.

The Service Center contains the following tools and techniques:

Materials Characterization

Thermal Analysis

  • Thermogravimetric Analyzer (TGA) TA 2050 - measures weight changes in materials to determine composition, thermal stability and related phenomena. It operates from room temperature to 1000 degree centigrade in many different atmospheres.
  • Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) TA2910 - with modulated DSC capability can be used in the temperature range of -180 degrees centigrade to 600 degrees centigrade to measure the heat flow and temperatures associated with transitions. The material is subjected to a sinusoidal temperature ramp, superimposed on the linear temperature ramp in order to provide information about reversing and non-reversing characteristics of the thermal events.
  • Thermomechanical Analysis (TMA) - measures sample dimensional changes from -1860 to 1000 degrees C. The technique provides physical characteristics and mechanical properties of materials for: compatibility of materials that must function together, such as coatings and their substrates, adjacent layers of laminate; suitability of materials for use in harsh environments and temperature extremes such as: brake linings, automotive gaskets, window seals; optimum processing conditions.

Electron Microscopy

  • High Resolution FEG-TEM/STEM
  • High Resolution FEG-SEM
  • Analytical SEM

State-of-the-art electron microscopes are becoming the necessary tools for quality control during nanomaterials synthesis and development. The instruments in the Conn Center Materials Characterization Facility are capable of achieving an image resolution of 0.24 nm and spectroscopic resolution of 0.8eV. These instruments include a 200-kV field-emission transmission electron microscope, a field-emission scanning electron microscope, and a tungsten filament scanning electron microscope. The electron microscopes along with several accessories such as environmental chamber holders, energy filtered imaging, and 3-D chemical tomography allow one to perform various experiments critical to nanoscale science and technology, catalysis, advanced materials science & engineering, and structural biology. These experiments range from in-situ synthesis, fabrication, and structural characterization to property analysis at an atomic scale.

Optical Analysis

The Optical Analysis facilities available here:

  • Partial Size Distribution
  • Fourier Transform Infra Red spectroscopy
  • Photoluminesence and Raman spectroscopy
  • UV/Vis/NIR spectroscopy

Sample Preparation

  • Low Speed Diamond Saw
  • Grinder/Polisher
  • Ultrasonic Disk Cutter
  • Specimen Grinder
  • Dimpling Grinder
  • Cross-Section TEM Preparation Kit
  • Low Angle Milling System


  • PSD – The Brookhaven 90Plus nanoparticle size analyzer performs fast, routine submicron particle size measurements on a wide variety of samples and concentrations. It is an ideal instrument for measuring colloids, latexes, micelles, microemulsions, proteins, and other nanoparticles. Based on the principles of dynamic light scattering, most measurements only take a minute or two.
  • AFM/STM- The XE-100 provides high resolution scanning microscopy for nanoscale metrology of small samples in data storage, semiconductors, nanoscience, material science, polymers, biology and electrochemistry. It allows for scanning in contact and non-contact mode.
  • UHV AFM/STM – Our custom-built UHV system offers unique opportunities for various types of surface characterization techniques. The high-pressure gas cell allows samples, mounted on standard sample holder stubs, to be exposed to a gas pressure of up to 20 bar at a maximum temperature of 600 degrees C.  Samples can then be moved inside the system without exposing it to the atmosphere to the Sample Storage chamber. From there, specimens can be internally transferred to different chambers to perform different sets of characterizations.

X-Ray Diffractometry

  • Powder Diffraction – Rigaku DMAX B is used primarily for powder diffraction. The built-in structural database (PDF) allows rapid identification of phases from powder diffraction data.
  • HR XRD Bruker D8 with in-situ Gas – The D8 DISCOVER is a state-of-the-art, high quality x-ray diffractometer system that is easy to use, highly accurate, and versatile to meet all x-ray diffraction needs. It is outfitted with a dynamic scintillation detector, a LynxEye(TM) detector, and a Dome Heating Stage, DHS 1100 with a gas injection system. During operation, samples can be heated to as much as 1100 degrees C.

Energy Conversion Testing

Solar Cell Testing

In this facility, complete testing of solar cells can be performed using advanced experimental techniques, such as:

  • I-V characteristics and IPCE plots
  • Transient photocurrent and photovoltage measurements for transport and recombination time constants of photogenerated charge carriers
  • Diffuse reflectance and absorption study for fabricated electrodes

Mass Biofuel Conversion Testing

In this facility, complete testing of biofuel conversions can be performed using advanced experimental techniques, such as:

  • Gas chromatograph/mass spectrometry
  • NMR spectroscopy
  • HPLC
  • Acid titration
  • Freezing point studies

In addition to testing capabilities, the Conn Center maintains two biofuel reactors. With these reactors, we are able to prepare small quantities of FAME biofuels and green diesels. 

Lithium Ion Battery Prototyping & Testing

This facility allows comprehensive characterization of the battery samples in a practically oxygen-free glove box supplied by Vacuum Atmospheres Company, which include:

  • Electrochemical testing using eDAQ potentiostat for measuring the charge and discharge specific capacities
  • Cell assemblies, including pouch cells, coin cells, and swagelok cells
  • I-V characteristics of the cell
  • Impedance spectroscopy
  • Pre- and post-lithiation characterization of the cell assemblies.

Fuel Cell Testing

The Conn Center has two (2) automated fuel cell test stations (PS-Ultima from Electrochem, Inc.). PS-ULTIMA is the most advanced automated test system for qualifying up to 5 cells simultaneously.  System consists of a PC controlled, electronic load bank and fuel cell system controller, operating on Windows™-based software system.  The user can program the individual flow rates, temperatures, and humidification of the reactant gases to each fuel cell.  Applications include long term life testing, cell performance comparisons, or increased throughput for qualification testing.  Key features include:

  • Multi-sequence electrochemical tests may be programmed to simulate electrical load conditions ranging from constant voltage, current, or power to cyclic studies
  • Convenient front panel access to manual controls, and output and return gas fittings.
  • Safety designed in through hardware features and software control.
  • Front panel bypass valve for humidified or dry gas switching.
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