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The Soft Materials Characterization Laboratory (SMCL) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

A complete facility for analysis and characterization of soft materials and polymers 

Open to faculty, students and industrial customers

The Soft Materials Characterization Laboratory (SMCL) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides a research facility for analysis and characterization of synthetic polymers, soft materials and polymer devices.

To maintain leading-edge research programs, to give students a state-of-the-art education facility and to provide services to industrial clients, we continue to improve this advanced laboratory with new equipment purchased by grants or through gifts from industrial partners.

For use, questions or more information, please contact the Director of the MRSEC facilities:

Dr. Jerry Hunter  (

(608) 263-1073




  1. Auxiliary Equipment


    ThermoFisher Scientific IS50 FTIR

    Rudolph Auto NuIIing Ellipsometer

    OCA Contact Angle Measuring Device;

    Waters Gel Permeation Chromatography

    Spectroline XL-1500 UV Cross Linker

    PlasmaEtch Oxygen Plasma Etcher 

    Thermocraft Tube Furnace

    Thermal Probe Scanning Probe Microscope

    Polarization Modulation Infrared Reflection Absorption Spectrometer (PM-IRRAS)

    NItrogen Glove Box

    Spin coater, fume hoods, vacuum and ambient ovens

    Cr/Ti Gold evaporator

  2. Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) Q100

    The DSC measures temperatures and heat flows associated with thermal transitions in a material. Properties measured by DSC techniques include heat capacity at different temperatures, parameters of glass transitions, phase changes (melting, crystallization), product stability, cure/cure kinetics.

  3. Gel Permeation Chromatograph GPCmax

    The Viscotek GPC measures molecular weight averages (Mn, Mw, Mz) and molecular weight distribution of polymers.

  4. JA Woollam IR-VASE Mark II Ellipsometer

    The IR-VASE® Mark II is the only spectroscopic ellipsometer to cover the spectral range from 1.7 to 30 microns (333 to 5900 wavenumbers). The IR-VASE can determine both n and k for materials over the entire width of the spectral range without extrapolating data outside the measured range, as with a Kramers-Kronig analysis. Like other Woollam ellipsometers, the IR-VASE is perfect for thin films or bulk materials including dielectrics, semiconductors, polymers, and metals.

  5. JA Woollam VASE+AR Ellipsometer

    The VASE is our most accurate and versatile ellipsometer for research on all types of materials: semiconductors, dielectrics, polymers, metals, multi-layers, and more.

  6. LEO 1550 FESEM

    LEO 1550 FESEM with a Nability pattern generating system and EDS

  7. Malvern Zetasizer Nano ZSP

    The Zetasizer Nano ZSP is the world’s highest performance system and particularly suitable for the characterization of proteins and nanoparticles where the highest sensitivity for size and zeta potential measurement is required. It includes a Protein Measurement option for protein mobility measurements.

  8. Q-Sense E4 quartz crystal microbalance

    The Q-Sense E4 instrument employs a Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation Monitoring (QCM-D).

  9. Rheometer - Advanced Rheometric Expansion System (ARES)

    The ARES is a mechanical spectrometer (Rheometer) that is capable of subjecting a sample to either a dynamic (sinusoidal) or steady shear strain deformation, and then measuring the resultant torque expended by the sample in response to this shear strain. Shear strain is applied by the motor; torque is measured by the transducer. Strain amplitude and frequency are set by the operator, with the actual sample deformation determined by the measured motor and transducer displacement.

  10. RSA III Dynamic Mechanical Analyzer

    The RSA III (Dynamical Mechanical Analyzer or DMA) tests the dynamic mechanical properties of solid materials by using a servo drive linear motor to mechanically impose an oscillatory deformation, or strain, upon the material being tested. The material is coupled between the motor and a transducer, which measures the resultant force generated by material deformation. Strain amplitude and test frequency are set by the operator, and the actual sample deformation is determined by the measured actuator and transducer displacement.

  11. Thermo Scientific DXRxi Raman imaging microscope
    The DXRxi Raman Imaging Microscope provides:
    • Walk-up-and-run operation, regardless  of user skill level
    • Faster data visualization with optimized imaging parameters in real-time on-screen
    • Intuitive workflow for demanding applications to maximize sample throughput
    • Accurate measurements with:
      • Autoalignment and calibration – no tools required
      • Automatic background compensation
  12. Thermogravimetric Analyzer (TGA) Q500

    The TGA measures weight changes in a material as a function of temperature (or time) under controlled atmosphere. Its principal uses include measurement of a materials thermal stability and composition.