EU Science Hub

MCL, Micro-Characterisation Laboratory (EMMA)

Jul 08 2020
Oct 15 2020

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


  • In-situ micromechanical testing system able to operate in-vacuum (inside SEM) and in-air:
    • Load range: 1.5 N
    • Indentation range: 35 µm
    • Indenter tips: Berkovich, spherical
    • Static and dynamic modes


  • 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


  • 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.

Environmental & Mechanical Materials Assessment

  • Mode:
    Relevance Driven
  • Identifier:
  • Location:
    Petten, The Netherlands
  • Opening of the call:
  • Closure of the call:
  • Communication of the assessment of proposals:


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 and in-situ micromechanical testing system: 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: The AU is “hours”. 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 and in-situ micromechanical testing system: 20 AU  (AU = days)
    • Sample preparation equipment and support microstructural characterization: 80 AU  (AU = hours)
  • Average number of Access Unit per Project:
    • High temperature nanoindenter and in-situ micromechanical testing system: 5 AU (AU = days)
    • Sample preparation equipment and support microstructural characterization: 20 AU (AU = hours)
  • 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 (only Switzerland and 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: 10
  • Estimated total number for long- term stays (months) eligible for T&S allocated to the call: 4

Long term stays are primarily for students and have a duration of at least 1 month. They are typically 3 to 9 months for Karlsruhe, and 1 to 6 months for Petten and Geel.

The Lead Used is welcomed to fill in the User travel and subsistence form and send it to by the closing date of the call. For more information the Lead User may contact the JRC Research Infrastructure at

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 (only Switzerland and Ukraine).
  • The Lead User Institution must be from a university, research or public institution, or from a Small-Medium-Enterprise (SME).
  • 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 to the JRC (15 points)
  • Strategic importance for Europe (15 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:

The proposal should be submitted to by the closing date of the call.

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