School of GeoSciences

Electron Probe Microanalysis (EPMA) Facility

The Electron Probe Microanalysis Facility features a world-class Cameca SX100 instrument and is located in the Grant Institute, School of GeoSciences, at the University of Edinburgh.


The Facility supports in-house research and provides a Tephra Analysis service to the earth and environmental science community. The facility is available to researchers from other institutions and organisations - we welcome enquiries from researchers and students interested in obtaining data. The electron probe microanalyser forms a part of EMMAC, together with an SEM and two ion microprobes, that constitute a unique and world-class suite of analytical instruments.

Instrument Capabilities

The electron probe microanalyser can make fully quantitative analyses of almost every element in the Periodic Table between boron and uranium, with a spatial resolution as high as 1 micron and good analytical precision. The instrument's analytical capabilities, combined with it's data processing software, form a very powerful tool for academic and industrial research. The technique uses an incident electron beam to generate X-rays with energies and wavelengths specific to the elements present in the sample. Instrument calibration is carried out by analysing reference materials with known compositions. Routine detection limits are in the order of 0.009wt% to 0.05wt%, depending on the element and the material within which it is contained.

The configuration of the electron probe microanalyser enables high quality analysis of a very wide range of materials, including minerals, metals and alloys, glasses, ceramics and bone. The SX100 is therefore exceptionally versatile and has capabilities in fields such as earth and environmental sciences, materials sciences, engineering, biological and medical sciences, archaeology, forensics, process and quality control. In addition to quantitative analysis of specific locations on samples, the SX100 can produce qualitative and quantitative element distribution maps with resolutions as high as 1 micron, line profiles and analyses of thin layers.

The laboratory is actively engaged in technique development to improve current methods and extend the range of applications of EPMA. Developments have lead to improved spatial resolutions for analysis of tephras and melt inclusions with beam diameters of 3 and 5 microns without beam-induced chemical modification (Hayward, 2012, The Holocene). This permits analysis of highly vesicular and/or fine-grained, distal tephras and small melt inclusions.

Internet facilities and Skype are available to clients throughout their stay.

Contact Details

Dr Christopher Hayward

Contact details



Grant Institute,
James Hutton Road
School of GeoSciences,
University of Edinburgh,
Kings Buildings
West Mains Road, Edinburgh. EH9 3FE