CFM infrastructure has been envisioned to characterise nanoscale materials with high sensitivity. Thus, CFM headquarters building was built on the basis of sophisticated architectural and engineering solutions to create a unique environment, free of electromagnetic interference and with an ultralow level of vibration. Since the opening of CFM headquarters in 2010, state-of-the-art facilities have been launched progressively, which complete a set of very sophisticated and specialised experimental techniques, ready to give response to the needs in advanced materials characterisation. These needs involve both fundamental research in nanomaterials, as well as specifically targeted systems of interest for Energy and in bio-environments strategic areas. The following equipment and infrastructures are hosted and run at CFM by the different research groups:



The “High Resolution Angle Resolved Photoemission” laboratory is equipped with an Angle Resolved Photoemission Spectroscopy (ARPES) system combined with atomic-resolved microscopy (Scanning Tunneling Microscope, STM). These two techniques can be used either jointly or separately. The ARPES instrument allows achieving ultra-high resolution (0.1 degrees, 5 meV) and can deal with samples at low temperature (40K). Samples can be prepared independently at two different preparation chambers and they can be inserted in the instrument via a fast-entry lock.


The “Surface Chemistry” laboratory is equipped with an Ultra High Vacuum chamber combining different surface characterisation techniques: X-Ray Photoemission (XPS), Ultraviolet Photoelectron Spectroscopy (UPS), Low Energy Electron Diffraction (LEED) and Scanning Tunnel Microscope (STM) (with the possibility to use in Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) mode). The chamber has two samples preparation chambers, with the required Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) and sample preparation tools.


The “Surface Magnetism” laboratory hosts equipment for surface characterisation of samples by means of a home-made Magneto Optic Kerr Effect (MOKE, 15-300 K, 0.1 Tesla) and Scanning Tunnel Microscope (STM, Omicron, 70-800K) (combined or separately). The measuring ultra‑high vacuum chamber includes Low Energy Electron Diffraction (LEED) and Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE).


The “Ultra-Low Temperature Scanning Tunneling Microscopy” laboratory hosts an Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) / Scanning Tunnel Microscope (STM) operable at 1K for characterisation of materials at atomic scale.



The “Ceramic Materials” laboratory consists of the following specific equipment for synthesizing ceramics and cements:

  • high temperature ceramic ovens (Thermolyne model from ThermoFisher Scientific)
  • a high temperature microwave oven that features 3100 Watts of microwave power and controllable temperature up to 2000°C (BP-211/50 model from Microwave Research and Applications, Inc.)
  • home-made sub- and super-critical reactors.

In the “Ceramic Materials” laboratory there is also an isothermal calorimeter (TAM Air 8-channel model from TA Instruments) for cements characterisation.




In the “Laser Spectroscopy” laboratory, continuous and time-resolved (with nano-picoseconds excitation laser sources) spectroscopies with high spectral resolution in the ultraviolet-visible-infrared (UV-VIS-IR) radiation domains, together with low temperature facilities (2K) are used to characterise the properties of rare-earth- doped materials for lasing, spectral conversion, energy transfer and laser cooling. A home-made photoacoustic spectrometer is also available. These facilities are physically located at the Engineering School of Bilbao (out of the CFM main premises in Donostia / San Sebastián).


The “Ultrafast Spectroscopy” laboratory consists of picosecond (Infrared-Visible-Ultraviolet, IR‑VIS‑UV) and femtosecond (Infrared-Visible, IR-VIS) sources (with regenerative amplification) with high speed detectors in the picosecond domain (Streak camera), capable of measuring the fluorescence of atoms and ions of technological interest. There is also a multiphoton microscope with time-resolved possibilities to this end. These facilities are physically located at the Engineering School in Bilbao (out of the CFM main premises in Donostia / San Sebastián).


The “Nanophotonics” laboratory hosts a scanning confocal time-resolved photoluminescence (TRPL) setup (MicroTime200, PicoQuant) providing single molecule sensitivity and high temporal resolution to measure the decay of quantum dot and molecular emitters. The range of application includes Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM), Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS), Forster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), Fluorescence Lifetime Measurements, and Fluorescence Anisotropy and Intensity Time Traces.

Other available set-ups include:

  • QUEPRO high-performance spectrophotometer connected to IX71 Olympus microscope for microphotoluminescence spectroscopy
  • Cary50 spectrophotometer (Agilent) for absorption and transmission spectroscopy
  • Cary Eclipse Spectrophotometers (Agilent) for range of applications including photoluminescence and photoluminescence excitation spectroscopy, photoluminescence anisotropy spectroscopy, photoluminescence kinetics, phosphorescence and delayed fluorescence lifetime measurements
  • Chemat KW4A precision spin-coater for deposition of thin organic and inorganic films from solutions and self-assembly of nanostructures.

In the “Materials Synthesis” laboratory, materials’ crystal growth is investigated by using home‑made Bridgman and Czochralski furnaces. These facilities are physically located at the Engineering School of Bilbao (out of the CFM main premises in Donostia / San Sebastián).


The “Quantum Nanophotonics” laboratory is fully stabilised in temperature and humidity, and hosts state-of-the-art facilities for the generation and control of quantum states of light:

  • Three optical tables for manipulating the polarisation as well as spatial and frequency degrees of freedom of entangled and single photon states: 1200 x 2400 x 305 mm table with isolators (784-655-12DR model from TMC), 1500 x 3000 x 305 mm table with isolators (784-675-12DR model from TMC) and 900 mm x 1800 mm x 305mm table with isolators (from Newport)
  • A set of laser systems, including continuous wave lasers covering the ultra violet, visible and infrared regions, for producing different photon states: a 633nm, 10mW, He-Ne laser (from Thorlabs); a 403nm, 100mW, diode (from Toptica); a 680nm, 50mW, diode (from Toptica); a 808nm, 10mW, diode (from Thorlabs)
  • Optically addressable cryostat, equipped with state-of-the-art nanopositioners, for cooling down nanostructures and nanoparticles to cryogenic temperatures (attoDRY 100 model from Attocube)
  • A set of spatial light modulators (from Cambridge Correlators), polarisers (from Thorlabs and Standa) and Single Photon Counting Modules (SPCM, APDs SPCM-AQ4C model from Excelitas), for analysing the photons interacting with nanostructures at cryogenic temperatures
  • Microwave generators and amplifiers (SMB100A model from Rohde & Schwartz), for addressing the electronic states of Nitrogen Vacancy centres in diamond



The “Dielectric Spectroscopy” laboratory provides characterisation of dielectric properties of materials, particularly polymers and soft matter. The combined use of several types of spectrometers, listed below, allows covering a wide dynamical range of more than 16 orders of magnitude (in frequency and time domain) and different sample environments:

  • Broad-Band Dielectric Spectrometers (BBDS): ALPHA-S & ALPHA-A Novocontrol
  • High-Frequency Dielectric Spectrometer (HFDS): Agilent E4991A RF-Impedance Analyzer
  • Micro-Wave Dielectric Spectrometer (MWDS): Agilent E8361A Microwave Network Analyzer
  • Terahertz Spectrometer (THS): Teraview 3000 spectrometer
  • High-Pressure Dielectric Spectrometer (HPDS): Concept 100 Novocontrol
  • Low-Temperature Dielectric spectrometer (LTDS): ALPHA-A Novocontrol
  • Time-Domain Dielectric Spectrometer (TDDS): Novocontrol
  • Thermally Stimulated Depolarization Currents (TSDC): Novocontrol

The “Microscopy” laboratory allows structural characterization by means of:

  • Optical Confocal Microscopy (Leica TCS SPE DM5500, 120-520K)
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM, Hitachi TM 3000, 250-320K)
  • Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM, MultiMode V, Veeco, 250-470K)

The “Chemistry” laboratory is specialised in synthesis of polymers and soft-matter based materials, with special focus on click chemistry methods. This laboratory can characterise physicochemical properties and stability of molecular and supramolecular chemical compounds using the following equipment:

  • Absolute molecular mass distribution meter: Agilent 1200 GPC-SEC Analysis System + Wyatt. Light-scattering miniDAWN TREOS , viscosimetry ViscoStar II and Optilab rEX Refractive Index Detector
  • Nanoparticle size and z-potential meter: Malvern Zetasizer Nano
  • Viscometer: EMS-Viscometer EMS-1000 and Malvern SV-10 Vibro
  • Surface tension meter: Contact Angle meter OCA 15 EC DataPhysics Instruments GmbH
  • Liquid/solution density meter: ANTON PAAR, DMA 4500 M model
  • UV-VIS spectrometer: Agilent 8453A with Peltier thermostated cell holder, T-controller 89090A
  • Close vessel microwave assisted reactor: CEM Discover SP System (200-550K, 0-27 bar)

The “Thermal Analysis” laboratory hosts the following equipment for material characterisation, particularly polymers and soft matter:

  • Differential Scanning Calorimetry analysis (DSC): Q2000 TMDSC – TA Instruments (100-700K) and Flash DSC1 – Mettler Toledo (180-700K)
  • Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA): Q500, TA Instruments (290-1300K)
  • Dilatometry (DIL): Zero Friction L75V, Linseis (100-800K) dual push rod version

Pressure-Volume-Temperature (PVT): PVT100, Thermo Haake (200-550K, 200-2500 Bar)


The “Mechanical characterisation” laboratory hosts the following equipment to perform rheological analysis in polymer and soft matter samples:

  • ARES-LS2 rheometer – TA Instruments (130-800K) (1mHz-50Hz), with simultaneous electric impedance analyser (20Hz-1MHz)
  • Minimat 200 Rheometrics Scientific (200-500K) miniature material tester

The “Molecular Spectroscopy” laboratory hosts the following equipment to characterise solid and liquid samples, particularly polymers and soft matter:

  • For the molecular spectroscopy in the infrared (IR) domain: FT-IR – JASCO 6300 (130-400K)
  • For the molecular spectroscopy in the terahertz (THz) domain: TPS SPECTRA 3000, TeraView
  • Raman scattering: FT-RAMAN, JASCO RFT-6000

The “X-Ray” laboratory can provide characterisation of polymer and soft matter samples by means of Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS) and Wide Angle X-Ray Scattering (WAXS) techniques (individually or simultaneously), using the following equipment:

  • SAXS: Rigaku PSAXS-L (120-520K), which can operate with simultaneous WAXS measurements
  • WAXS: Bruker AXS D8 ADVANCE (120-520K)

The “Light Scattering” laboratory can provide characterisation of polymer and soft matter samples by means of Static and Dynamic Light Scattering techniques (SLS and DLS, respectively), using a Light Scattering Spectrometer (288 – 363K) with modulated 3D technology.


In addition to the experimental facilities, CFM has a Computing Centre that provides scientific computing capabilities to the researchers of the centre, giving a computing power of 45TFLOPS and a computing time of about 25 000 000 computing process unit (CPU) hours per year (about 3000 computing cores). It consists of two High Performance Computing (HPC) clusters:

  • Oberon cluster (the main CFM HPC cluster) is composed of 182 computing nodes with two Xeon processors and a memory in the range of 24GB up to 256GB per node, all of them sharing a high speed-low latency Infiniband connection network and a high performance shared parallel filesystem, giving a total of around 1936 cores and 10TB of memory.
  • Nostromo cluster is designed for shared memory – single node calculations. It is composed of 17 AMD Opteron 6300 series computing nodes with 64 cores and 64GB of RAM per node, giving a total of 1088 cores and about 1.1TB of memory.

These two clusters give service to a variety of computational needs in the centre, mainly to the ab-initio calculation of advanced materials, which is a transverse topic within the centre. Apart from these clusters, there are 11 workstations that are used for running specific numerical applications.