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Laboratory Capabilities
Descriptions of Laboratory Capabilities PDF Print E-mail


The Inamori School of Engineering at Alfred University is a leading educational institution in the United States for ceramic and glass engineering and science.  Approximately 40% of all ceramics engineers in the United States have degrees from Alfred University.  It is host to the Scholes Library, which is unique in the world in being dedicated to ceramics and art.  Many other significant resources are available at Alfred University. 

Biomaterials Facilities

The biomaterials facility includes two laboratories.

The first is the high temperature furnace lab which has two high temperature furnaces and a microwave furnace. There is also gyromills which are used for grinding the glass made in the furnaces.

The actual biomaterials lab includes three autoclaves used for sterilizing materials/instruments. There is a water de-ionizer to remove all minerals/contaminants from the water: important in biological work. The lab also has various incubators/ovens for storage and aging of samples and a centrifuge for separating solids/cells suspended in a solution. Included is a laser profilometer to image and determine the surface texture and roughness of materials surfaces in the main bio labs.  There is a class II fume hood used extensively for cell culture, and also for culturing bacteria and yeast. There are various microscopes in the lab, the best being a digital Olympus optical microscope which we can use to monitor cell growth and also use to measure the size of objects such a pores in materials. A particle size analyzer is used to determine the mean particle size distribution of materials. A vi-cell coulter counter measures the viability of cells after exposure to materials. Included also are a Uv/vis spectrometer and a 96 well plate reader. A -80 freezer is used to store bacteria and fungi cultures and a CO2 incubator for growing mammalian cells.

Ceramic Processing

The KISoE boasts one of the best equipped laboratories for ceramic powder processing research.  In addition to a communition equipment (jaw crusher, roller mill, ball mills, speed mills, vibratory mills (both wet and dry), attrition mills, and automated mortar and pestles) the school maintains a complete array of powder and rheological characterization instrumentation (see Powder and Suspension Characterization), slurry processing equipment (high intensity mixer, low-speed high-torque mixers, and filter pressing capabilities for large and small volumes), spray dryer, forming equipment, and two pilot plant facilities (one for traditional ceramics and one for dielectric ceramics), heat treatment and sintering equipment (see Furnace and Sintering Capabilities), and mechanical and electrical testing instrumentation (see Mechanical and Electrical Characterization).  The facilities can accommodate aqueous and non-aqueous processing; wet, dry, and semi-dry processing, including slip casting, tape casting (a laboratory bench scale model and a controlled environment pilot plant scale model), injection molding, extrusion (both auger and piston extrusion with vacuum de-airing capabilities), and dry pressing (manual and automatic with an 80-ton biaxial dry press). 

Powder and Suspension Characterization

Powder characterization capabilities range from standard sieve analysis (via Ro-tap), laser and x-ray particle size analysis, surface area (N2-BET), He-pycnometry and other pycnometer methods (aqueous and non-aqueous via pycnometer bottles), zeta-potential (direct observation via laser, acoustophoretic mobility, and streaming potential), potentiometric titration with a sample changer, and porosimetry (via N2 and Hg).  Image analysis is also possible via optical and scanning electron microscopy. 

A complete array of equipment is available for rheology measurements, including Brookfield and Gallenkamp viscometers, stress- and strain-controlled rheometers, and DMA (Dynamic Mechanical Analysis).  The stress- and strain-controlled rheometers can also perform small amplitude oscillatory measurements for viscoelasticity characterization using a range of geometries (parallel plate, cone and plate, and concentric cylinder).  Also, unique to these facilities is a high pressure shear rheometer (designed and built at Alfred University) for measuring plasticity of plastic bodies and evaluating shear behavior of low water content bodies at high pressure. 

Furnace and Sintering Capabilities

Ceramic samples can be dried and sintered in a broad array of furnaces and kilns.  For sintering in air, the capabilities encompass electric resistance heating at low temperature (Kanthal wire kilns with a maximum temperature of 1100°C), intermediate temperature (SiC heating elements; 1500°C maximum), and high temperature (1800°C via MoSi2), a gradient furnace (1450°C maximum, and several gas-fired furnaces that range in temperature from 1400°C to 1950°C (with oxygen assist).  For inert atmosphere (either vacuum or argon) four furnaces maintained here have either tungsten (2000°C maximum) or carbon (2300°C maximum) heating elements.  Three of these are small sample sizes (3x3x6cm) and one larger capacity furnace (30x30x30cm). 

Coating Facilities

Thin film coating facilities include an ion-assisted electron beam deposition system with planetary substrate rotation assembly, RF/DC/pulsed-DC sputtering system and RF aerosol mist deposition system.  The first two systems are vacuum systems, and the last system is a non-vacuum system.  Coating materials include silicon nitride, iron nitride, aluminum nitride, aluminum oxide, cerium oxide, indium tin oxide, titanium oxide, etc.  The substrate shapes include plate, curved, and tube shapes among others. The substrate sizes vary from 9” to a fraction of an inch.

Computers (Carlson)

For computational activities there are desktop computing resources employing applications ranging from open source programming software (Octave) to commercial FEA software packages (COMSOL) for studying specific problems concerning the multiphysics of devices and materials. Previous solutions have dealt with the mechanics of electroceramics, the field behavior in MLC capacitors, the active thermal environment in sonar, and the thermomechanical behavior of refractories.


In the general-purpose computing laboratory, IBM compatible personal computers are equipped with word-processing, spreadsheet, a variety of programming languages, as well as engineering-specific applications. A computer lab exclusively for advanced computing applications is also available. This lab supports advanced, computationally intensive software for the Mechanical Engineering curriculum such as AutoCAD, Fluent, and ANSYS finite element software.

Glass Processing Facilities

The School of Engineering houses a complete facility for the preparation of custom glass formulations.  A variety of furnaces are available for preparing melts at temperatures up to 1800ºC, including furnaces for melting under an inert or evacuated environment.  Melts are prepared in noble metal crucibles and/or ceramic crucibles as needed – facilities are available for cleaning platinum crucibles with HF acid using appropriate PPE.  Also available are:

Small muffle furnaces are used for annealing of glass samples

Diamond saws and lapping wheels for grinding and polishing are used to prepare samples for characterization of optical properties, thermal properties, etc. 

 Comminution equipment is used to produce glass frits having a desired particle size distribution. 

Specialty facilities are also available for specialty glass processing needs, including but not limited to: a rocking furnace for mixing of non-oxide melts in sealed ampoules, laboratory scale and industrial scale draw towers for fabricating custom glass fibers, equipment for pulling laboratory scale quantities of glass rod, and equipment for fabricating solid and hollow glass microspheres.

Electrical Property Characterization

The LEC maintains an extensive facility for electrical-properties measurements supported by a full-time technician (BS EE).  The LEC houses four complete Lab View-based, impedance analyzers.  Two Solatron 1260 analyzers form the core for measuring low-field, sub 10MHz electrical parameters with temperature chambers ranging from 15K to 1100C and various atmospheric conditions.  Additional LabView-based systems are routinely assembled and modified as needed for DC electrical measurements, including four-point conductivity and thermopower measurements.  A Solatron 1260 analyzer with a 1287 potentiostat is available for impedance spectroscopy and electrochemical measurements.  Z-plot is available for routine analysis.  The facility also houses some unique and versatile strain-polarization equipment with frequency ranges of micro-Hz to 40 kHz, electrical fields of less than 1V to 10 Kilovolt levels, two MTI 2000 FotonicTM sensors are available with various probes to measure displacement at sub-1μ strain levels and in chambers ranging from a 15K Helium cryostat to 300C.  A Berlincourt d33 is available for spot piezoelectric measurements.

Center for High Temperature Characterization (CHTC)

The CHTC has several novel pieces of equipment providing functionalities not found elsewhere.  For thermal analysis, the CHTC has equipment that can make measurements of TG-DTA/DSC with mass spectroscopy and thermo-mechanical analysis capabilities.  The Maximum operating temperature is 2400°C with atmosphere control/mixing.  The center has a laser flash thermal diffusivity system.  Its maximum operating temperature is 1600°C in the alumina furnace and 24000°C in the graphite furnace.  Measurement of pO2 in glass melts may be taken at temperatures up to 1600°C.  Electrical resistivity of glass melts can be measured up to temperatures of 1500°C.  Also high temperature scanning electron microscopy is also available.

Illumination Equipment

Equipment required for illumination studies, including various lamps, housings, etc., will be purchased with equipment/material funds as well as with the PI’s start-up funds.

Mechanical Properties Characterization

Instron testing frames are available for testing of materials in tension, compression, flexure, etc., in combination with a variety of mechanical testing fixtures.  Indenters for hardness testing are also available for loads up to 50 KG.  Vickers and Knoop indenters are available for loads up to 1 KG and Vickers indenters are available for loads up to 50 KG.

The mechanical engineering lab facilities at Alfred University are used primarily to support undergraduate teaching. In the mechanics of materials laboratory, experiments related to the mechanical properties of solids are conducted, using a number of specialized laboratory test rigs. Such experiments include deformation of cantilever and simply-supported beams, column deflection, stress distributions and stress concentration in beams, combined loading, impact loading, measurement of modulus of elasticity and Poisson's ratio, photoelastic stress analysis and brittle coating analysis. Furthermore, test rigs are available for experiments related to the motion of solid systems. These experiments include forced vibration, rotor dynamics, and measurements of engine performance using a dynamometer. Lab instrumentation includes strain indicators with simulators and switch-and-balance units, storage scope with strain gauge modules and computer interface, computer-interfaced height gauge, weight scale, XY recorder, signal conditioners, and load cells. Data is analyzed using computer software.

The thermosciences laboratory houses equipment for experiments related to thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. Rigs are available for measuring the thermodynamic performance of air conditioning systems and cooling towers. There are also test setups for investigating the solid body rotation of liquids, the performance of centrifugal pumps and fans and various characteristics of duct flows. Special test equipment is used to measure heat condition in solids, free and forced convection, radiation heat transfer and the performance of fins. Instrumentation includes digital thermometers, signal conditioners, AD interfaces, psychrometer, barometer, anemometer, two-channel function recorder with thermal module, matching network, thermal to AC converter, various manometers, pressure gauges, and pressure transducers. Data is analyzed using computer software.

The vibrations laboratory is used for experiments involving the dynamic characteristics of mechanical systems. Experiments involving forced vibration, rotor dynamics, and engine performance using a dynamometer are performed. In addition, state-of-the-art modal analysis equipment is available. This equipment includes a four-channel spectrum analyzer, instrumented impact hammer, and accelerometers. SMS Star software is used for animation of dynamic behavior and ANSYS finite element software is used for simulation of vibratory response.


A whole suite of new state-of-the-art electron microscopy tools has been installed at Alfred University within the last two years for micro-structural and elemental evaluation of materials: a high temperature in situ Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM), an Electron Probe MicroAnalyzer (EPMA) and a X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) unit.  Two dedicated Technical Specialist manages these instruments.

Other equipment in the microscopy laboratory consists of a FEI Quanta 200F Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (Field-emission gun) and a JEOL JXA-8200 Scanning Electron Microscope EDS/WDS. There is a Digital Instruments Nanoscope IIIa Dimension 3100 atomic force microscope with an isolation hood, that is equipped for standard contact/tapping mode imaging in air and fluid as well as lateral force imaging.

A Siemens X-Ray Diffractometer D500 equipped for thin film diffraction is also available for use.

Nanomaterials Pilot Plant

The new NYSTAR-sponsored Center for Prototype Manufacturing of Nanostructured Electroceramics (a.k.a. “Pilot Plant”) is a partnership between the Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CACT) at Alfred University and the Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP) at Clarkson University. Researchers have developed pilot plant facilities and expertise for the synthesis of nano-sized ceramic powders, from which will be manufactured specific electronic components and devices for consolidation into nano-structured electroceramic components with enhanced properties, such as multi-layer capacitors, zinc-oxide varistors, solid oxide fuel cells and ferrite inductor cores.  Collaborations are planned with regional industrial partners and entrepreneurs to develop and transfer technology, spurring innovation and economic development.  A class-10,000 clean-room facility located at the Ceramic Corridor Innovation Center is for critical electro-ceramic device fabrication techniques including tape casting, screen printing, lamination, die-pressing, and isostatic pressing.  Innovative firing techniques in addition to conventional fast-fire processing such as microwave sintering will be used to retain the nano-structure.  Researchers with CAMP at Clarkson University design and produce novel process intensification reactors for pilot scale synthesis of nano-particles. CAMP will use these techniques to increase production capacity of particles known to have application in advanced electronic materials but now available in only small quantities.  The intensified modular plant will be capable of delivering pilot-scale throughput of up to 1 kg / dry powder per day and will be adaptable to different types of chemical synthesis. Once the nano-powders have been prepared, they will be sent to Alfred for further processing into electroceramic devices.

Powder Processing

Processing capabilities include high-energy attrition milling, tape casting and CIP.  A recent gift will add air particle classification.  Heat treatment includes a gas atmosphere rotating tube calciner, an array of high-temperature furnaces with a broad range of temperature, atmosphere and pressure capabilities.  More specifically, multiple high temperature graphite, tungsten, and silicon carbide resistive furnaces with high vacuum and atmosphere control, a graphite resistive HIP furnace (2000C and 15,000 psi), a silicon carbide resistive HIP furnace (1400C and 30,000 psi), a graphite resistive axial hot press with environmental control (2000C and 5000 psi) and a custom-built molydisilicide fast-fire furnace with atmosphere control (1600C and 1000C/min).  Several process gas oxygen analyzers are available for on site use.


The spectroscopy lab is equipped with a variety of surface sensitive equipment including a Phi Quantera SXM Scanning XPS/Microprobe and a Phi 660 Scanning Auger Microprobe. It is also equipped with a wide range of spectrometers including a Perkin Elmer Spectrum 100N FT-NIR Spectrometer, a Perkin Elmer Spectrum GX FTIR System, a Perkin Elmer Lambda 900 UV/Vis/NIR Spectrometer, Perkin Elmer Lambda 950 UV/Vis Spectrometer, WiTec Confocal CRM 200 Raman Microscope/Spectrometer, and a Woolam HS-1900 Spectroscopic Ellipsometer. The biomaterials laboratory is also equipped with fluorescence spectroscopy which can be used for cell viability quantification.

Sol-Gel Processing

A fully equipped wet chemistry laboratory is managed by the PI, allowing clean and safe preparation of sol-gel solutions. The laboratory also houses a spin coater, while a dip coater is also available on campus. The PI will be further equipping this laboratory over the next few years.

Surface Characterization

For surface analysis and characterization, the School of Engineering has the following pieces of equipment:                 

            XRay Photoelectron Spectrometer

            Atomic Force Microscope


            Laser Profilometer

            Zygot Profilometer

            Confocal Microscope

            Raman Infrared Spectrometer

X-Ray Diffraction

For phase and structural characterization, Alfred University has one of the best-equipped X-ray diffraction laboratories of any university in the nation.  Alfred's x-ray lab houses 8 instruments, including 2 custom-built in-situ instruments with high-temperature chambers and position-sensitive detectors used for phase equilibria and kinetics studies. The diffraction furnaces are equipped to handle gaseous atmosphere and also have high-vacuum capabilities.  The diffraction techniques are complimented with a well-outfitted thermal analysis laboratory, including 4 graphite and platinum simultaneous TGA-DTA systems permitting versatile environments in reducing, inert, and oxidizing atmospheres, along with multiple high temperature dilatometers.


Industry Advisors

As a complement, the Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CACT) is building a "Team" of Industry Advisors from a broad spectrum of industries experienced in a wide range of industries such as Energy, Healthcare, and Environment.

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The Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology is sponsored by the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation.

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Short Courses

For those interested in increasing their expertise in the field of ceramics and glasses, or those just being introduced, Short Courses are a good option. Designed for professionals in the ceramics and glass industry, these intensive courses offer a chance to update knowledge of the field in a short period of time.  Courses range from detailed, in-depth examinations of very specific topics to broader introductory classes.

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