Continuing support for a world class research facility


There is no facility in the world that possesses the advanced tools and capabilities of the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy (CCEM).

Since becoming operational in 2006, the CCEM’s research activities have been transformative, providing Canadian and international researchers, industry, government regulators and students with access to the most sophisticated and technical expertise for electron microscopy.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has ensured that this leading edge facility will continue its operations at the forefront of advanced characterization of materials by providing a $1.4M award through their Major Science Initiatives program. Funding awarded under this special competition is intended to “secure and strengthen unique national research facilities that support world-class research, the loss of which would represent a serious setback for Canada”.

The CCEM addresses the important issue of understanding the structure and micro-structural properties of new and innovative materials, how these relate to their desired function, and when and how they are likely to fail.

“The end users of the knowledge creation generated from materials research at the CCEM are diverse,” explains Gianluigi Botton, Scientific Director of the CCEM and Canada Research Chair in Electron Microscopy of Nanoscale Materials. “They are government regulators seeking the validation of safety concerns in nuclear power plants; they are health scientists trying to understand the origins of antimicrobial resistance; scientists and engineers developing self-diagnostic paper, or materials to detect tuberculosis. From steel for pipelines, lightweight alloys for cars, to artificial bones – we’re enabling Canadian and international industry to better understand their devices and products and what factors limit their performance.”

There is also a significant cohort of young scientists and engineers who have been – and will continue to be – educated and trained to use the most sophisticated modern techniques to understand the advanced characterization of materials.

“The Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy is not only responsible for some of the most significant advances in novel and pioneering materials, it is also cultivating the next generation of highly qualified personnel,” says Mo Elbestawi, vice-president, research & international affairs. “This cohort will be employed in Canadian industry, government and academic organizations, where they will bring their understanding of advanced characterization to their work environment and use that understanding to solve important problems –scientific, industrial, health, regulatory and safety – that impact the lives of all Canadians.”

The CCEM was one of only nine national research facilities awarded funding in today’s announcement.

Gilles Patry, President and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation said, “These unique national research facilities have a proven record of being catalysts for extraordinary ideas. When talented scientists converge in these state-of-the-art spaces, they are inspired to push the boundaries and think big.”

The Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy (CCEM) By the Numbers

  • During the last five years alone, the CCEM has been accessed by:
    • 95 research groups within McMaster
    • 250 user groups from across Canada
    • 100 companies, ranging from large multinationals based in Canada to small start-ups with a handful of employees trying to develop new products
    • A dozen international users
    • More than 1100 Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) – including 713 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from McMaster
  • The work done at the CCEM has led to more than 600 publications, including prestigious journals such as Nature, Advanced Materials and Angewantde Chemie as well as specialized journals that range from structural biology to energy nuclear materials and corrosion
  • Hundreds of different types of materials have been analysed at the atomic, micro -and -nanoscale
  • The CCEM is operated by 7 professional staff members who possess more than 92 person-years of experience in electron microscopy, providing the broad user base with comprehensive support. They also train McMaster students on the operation of the instruments