Materials Characterization

The Materials Characterization Facility (MCF) provides instrumentation and expertise for solid and liquid materials characterization by surface and thermal analysis and spectroscopic and spectrometric analytical methods; in-situ synthetic studies of complex actinide materials including transuranium elements, and developing new functional materials engineered at the nanoscale to effectively capture solar radiation, interfaced with materials that can use that energy to drive useful chemical reactions. Major capabilities are:

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    General Material Characterization. Modern instrumentation and expertise for solid, liquid, and gas characterization by spectroscopic, thermal, X-ray, BET, and spectrometric analytical methods. (Instruments are located in 132 Nieuwland Science Hall.)
  • Photovoltaic and Electrocatalyst Characterization. Two catalyst and photovoltaic testing stations include solar simulators, automated gas sampling loops for in-line GC evolved gas detection, and a potentiostat with electrochemical impedance and rotating disc electrode capabilities. (Instruments are located in 132 Nieuwland Science Hall.)
  • Crystallographic Characterization. Powder and single crystal X-ray diffractometers are available for a wide range of structural characterization. (Instruments are located in 303 Stinson-Remick Hall of Engineering.)

The MCF is an open-access facility and is available to internal and external users, both academic and industrial. Instruments and user fees are listed on the MCF website. For more information and to schedule use of the instruments, contact Dr. Ian Lightcap at 574-631-1493 or

Utilization Grants

The Materials Characterization Facility (MCF) offers utilization grants for energy-related research requiring use of one or more MCF instruments. The intent is to provide equipment access for unfunded seed research to assist faculty in developing competitive external proposals. Individuals from colleges and other organizations outside of Notre Dame with limited access to advanced characterization instrumentation are eligible to apply. This is an open call for submissions. Proposals will be accepted until funding is no longer available. 

Proposal Instructions

Interested applicants should use the proposal template at the link below. Proposals should include a summary of the proposed research or educational activity, including a brief project overview, description of the project goals, field of context for the goals, the expected outcomes of the study/activity, and a statement indicating that the proposed project is not currently being funded by external sources. Proposals should also include a brief description of the desired MCF instrument(s) for use, the estimated hours of use for each instrument, anticipated dates of use, description of the sample(s) to be characterized, and the type of data/information expected to be acquired. Proposals will be reviewed upon receipt, and researchers will be notified of their award status approximately two weeks after submission.

Submit proposals to: Dr. Ian Lightcap, Research and Facilities Program Director,

Download Proposal Template

Award Policy

Awards will be distributed in increments of up to $1,000 with the potential to re-apply up to 2 times per 12-month period for a total award not to exceed $3,000 per year, per PI. Renewals will be granted based on PI’s continued need for funding and adequate research progress with demonstrated results. Awards will be placed in a designated ND Energy account and made available to the PI and his/her designee within the CORES system for use in the MCF only. Funds must be used within the designated 12-month period. Any remaining funds will be returned to ND Energy.

In addition, if the funded work produces data that is included in a publication or in an application for external funding, you should acknowledge the MCF and notify Dr. Lightcap of the acknowledgement. Below is a standard acknowledgement statement.  

“We thank the ND Energy Materials Characterization Facility for use of the [insert instrument(s) here].” 

For a complete list and description of the MCF instruments, visit the website at