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MCL, Micro-Characterisation Laboratory (EMMA)

The Micro-Characterization Laboratory (MCL) is dedicated to the experimental investigation of materials performance in terms of microstructure and micromechanics.


Publication date
15 November 2023 in Petten, The Netherlands
Opening date
Deadline model
Deadline date
29 February 2024, 23:45 (CET)



The Micro-Characterization Laboratory (MCL) is dedicated to the experimental investigation of materials performance in terms of microstructure and micromechanics. The lab provides insight into the complex coupling between microstructure, its defects and the mechanical behaviour of small volumes of metals, ceramic materials, polymers and composites of interest for the safe operation of nuclear installations and for non-power nuclear applications. MCL also offers the possibility of producing nanoparticles by spark ablation method.

MCL offers open access to the following facilities:

  • High temperature nanoindentation testing system including nanoindentation head, atomic force microscope and optical microscope with synchronized positioning:
    • Load range: 100 mN
    • Indentation range: 100 µm
    • Temperature range: 600 °C
    • Tip and sample infrared heating
    • High vacuum
    • Indenter tips: Berkovich, spherical, flat punch
    • Static and dynamic operation modes
  • Miniaturized Membrane Bulge Test with Digital Image Correlation system for obtaining real stress- real strain curves of metallic films:
    • Foils thickness: from approximately 10 µm to 300 µm
    • Foils diameter: Circles of 33 mm Ø
    • Test Temperature range: RT to 250 °C
  • In-situ micromechanical testing system able to operate in-vacuum or in air:
    • Load cells: 0.5 and 2 N
    • Maximum displacement: 35 µm
    • High temperature module: 800 °C
    • High strain module: 1000 s-1
    • Indenter tips: Berkovich, spherical, conical, flat punch
    • Available modes: pure displacement control, pure load control and mixed mode
  • Sample preparation equipment:
    • High precision cut-off machine with grinding function and variable speed (300 – 5000 rpm)
    • Automatic polishing machine with sample holders for accurate plan-parallel removal of material
    • Automatic electrolytic polishing and etching apparatus
    • Electroject machine for automatic electrolytic thinning of specimens
    • Electro-hydraulic mounting press for embedding samples in resin
  • Dual beam plasma focused ion beam - scanning electron microscope (pFIB-SEM):
    • Electron column with in-column detection system for imaging at low acceleration voltage in immersion mode
    • Ion beam chemistries: C, Pt, W, enhanced etch, delayering agent
    • Needle for sample micro-manipulations (sample preparation for TEM and 3-D imaging)
    • Detector for 30 kV scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM)
    • Coplanar energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) detectors
  • Nanoparticle generator: table-top spark ablation plasma for the production of nanoparticles:
    • Particle size < 20 nm
    • Production rate 1-10mg/h
    • Cu, Au and Mo electrodes

Access to support microstructural characterization (TEM, SEM) is available. It is possible to make an Open Access Proposal using more than one EMMA laboratory.

Make a proposal

Priority topics of MCL

  1. Micro-characterization of materials of nuclear interest
  2. High temperature nanoindentation of metals, alloys and composites
  3. Development of new micro-mechanical testing methodologies
  4. Support to the development of predictive mechanism-based multiscale models of material behaviour
  5. Effects of material degradation sources in nuclear environments (irradiation, high temperature, corrosion)
  6. Understanding of small scale plasticity
  7. Physical methods of producing nanoparticles for non-power nuclear applications

Definition and conditions of access

Access to the research infrastructure is granted on the basis of Access Units. For MCL, the Access Unit corresponds to an 'AU' and the definition depends on the type of equipment made available to Users.

High temperature nanoindenter, in-situ micromechanical testing system, Miniature Membrane Bulge Test, pFIB and nanoparticle generator: The AU is “days”. For high temperature nanoindentation, one temperature in one sample can be tested per day. Typical projects will last one or two weeks. It is recommended to have a back-up of 1 – 2 days per sample to account for unexpected issues with temperature stabilization. Operation of the equipment will be done by JRC staff during normal working hours.

Sample preparation equipment, nanoparticle generator and support microstructural characterization. Users may prepare and/or observe their own specimens assisted by JRC staff. The length of such preparations and/or observations depends on each request. JRC staff can provide support to estimate the duration of proposals.

  • Estimated total number of Access Unit allocated to the call:
    • High temperature nanoindenter, in-situ micromechanical testing system, Miniature Membrane Bulge Test, pFIB and nanoparticles generator: 20 AU (AU = days)
    • Sample preparation and supporting microstructural characterization: 10 AU (AU = days)
  • Estimated costs excluding consumables and expenses:
    • Research infrastructure operated by JRC staff: 0€ / Day
    • Research infrastructure operated by users: Yes

Please note that specimens need to be prepared by the User on site.

Support of users for travel and subsistence

The JRC may provide a financial or in-kind contribution to support Users to cover their costs of travel and subsistence (T&S) related to the User Stay Days, subject to the availability of funds, personnel and other resources to Users from User Institutions located in an EU Member State or country associated to the Euratom Research Programme (Ukraine).

A User Stay Day is a day of physical presence of a User at the concerned Research Infrastructure for Access related to the User Access Project. A User Stay Day counts as a registered entry to the JRC site where the Research Infrastructure is located.

  • Estimated total number of User Stay Days for short- term stays eligible for T&S allocated to the call: 21
  • Estimated total number for long- term stays (months) eligible for T&S allocated to the call: 16

short-term stay corresponds to a stay of up to 20 User Stay Days.

long-term stays corresponds to a stay exceeding 20 User Stay Days, up to a maximum of 200 User Stay Days.

For more information on the support offered to users, please consult the Rules on the contribution to travel and subsistence expenses of external users.

Long-term stays are primarily meant for undergraduate and graduate students and have a duration of at least one month. They are typically three to nine months for Karlsruhe, and one to six months for Petten and Geel.

The Lead Used is welcomed to fill in the User travel and subsistence form and send it to JRC-OPEN-MCLatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (JRC-OPEN-MCL[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu) by the closing date of the call. For more information the Lead User may contact the JRC Research Infrastructure at JRC-OPEN-MCLatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (JRC-OPEN-MCL[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu).

Allocation of intellectual property rights

  • The JRC and the entitled party (person or organisation that has been granted access) become co-owners in equal shares of all raw data, treated data and documentation data developed with respect to the access.

or, if requested by the user or when users run the research infrastructure

  • Raw data, treated data and documentation data will be solely owned by the entitled party. The JRC receives a non-exclusive, royalty free, unlimited and world-wide license to use (meaning in particular to access, exploit, adapt, merge, translate, copy and store) the raw data, processed data and documentation data in all fields of exploitation. Where relevant, the license will include all the data / information necessary to replicate the tests.

Eligibility criteria

  • The Lead User Institution and User Institutions (see definitions in the Framework) must be from an EU Member State, or country associated to the Euratom Research Programme (at the time of the publication of the call this only includes Ukraine).
  • The scope of the work for nuclear RIs must be in line with the activities defined in Annex I of Council Regulation (Euratom) 2021/765.
  • The Lead User Institution must be from a university, research or public institution, or from a Small-Medium-Enterprise (SME).
  • User Institutions from international organisations, under the condition that the Lead User Institution and at least 2/3 of all the User Institutions (including the Lead User Institution) are located in a Member State or a country associated to Horizon Europe or to the Euratom research programme. In case of one or two User Institutions (including the Lead User Institutions), this requirement is only applied to the Lead User Institution.
  • Ethical considerations in accordance with EU Law, in particular Art. 19 of Regulation (EU) 1291/2013, and applicable laws and regulations in the EU Member States.
  • The proposal submission form is complete and complies with the instructions.

Selection criteria

Proposals will be evaluated in accordance to the following selection criteria:

  • Scientific implementation (50 points)
  • Collaboration and access to new Users (20 points)
  • Strategic relevance (30 points)

How to apply

The proposal must be prepared using the Relevance-driven Proposal Submission Form.

During preparation of the proposal, applicants are encouraged to:

  • Read the "Framework of Access to Joint Research Centre physical Research Infrastructures" and its annexes.
  • Contact the research infrastructure at JRC-OPEN-MCLatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (JRC-OPEN-MCL[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu) to specify the level of experience of the user(s) to perform related tests and to assess feasibility aspects related to the capacity of the research infrastructure concerning:
    • Material,
    • Test parameters,
    • Specimen geometry.

The proposal should be submitted to JRC-RI-OPEN-ACCESSatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (JRC-RI-OPEN-ACCESS[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu) by the closing date of the call. The deadline is 29 February 2024.

The User Selection Committee will only evaluate proposals that are complete and comply with the instructions in the proposal submission form.