California NanoSystems Institute
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Core Facilities at CNSI

The California NanoSystems Institute is exploring the power and potential of organizing and manipulating matter to engineer new integrated and emergent systems and devices, by starting down at the nanoscale level that will advance information technology, energy production, storage and saving, environmental well-being and diagnosis, and prevention and treatment of chronic and degenerative diseases. The institute's demonstrated ability to attract stellar faculty and top tier students will have a critical impact on the development of the next generation of scientists, engineers, and artists, who will bring prosperity and enlightenment to the State of California.

To support the research, the CNSI encompasses eight core facilities which include both wet and dry laboratories, equipment in the form of electron microscopes, atomic force microscopes, X-ray diffractometers, optical microscopies and spectroscopies, high throughput robotics and class 100 and 1000 clean rooms for projects led by CNSI and other faculty. Each of the following core facilities will afford critical work space for numerous research projects led by CNSI and other faculty and will be available to industry and academia.

Advanced Light Microscopy / Spectroscopy
Shimon Weiss, Faculty Director
Laurent A. Bentolila, Scientific Director

The accelerating field of molecular imaging has witnessed major technical advances that are now introducing the cell biologist and the physician alike to a new, dynamic, subcellular world where genes and gene products can be visualized to interact in space and time and in health and disease. The mission of the Advanced Light Microscopy/Spectroscopy Shared Facility is to provide consultation, services and support for the application of novel spectroscopic methods and advanced image analysis techniques for the study of macromolecules, cellular dynamics and nano-scale characterization of bio-materials.

Our research resource is much more than just a state-of-the-art facility, since we provide both new imaging agents and new instrumental technologies.

Firstly, our facility support the development of novel imaging reagents and indicator probes made of inorganic fluorescent semiconductor crystals (known as quantum dots) that can be synthesized in various colors and functionalized with various biological molecules including nucleic acids, proteins, peptides, small compounds etc... The unique optical properties of qdots enable to multiplex many different biological signals in complex environments such as the living cell. Importantly, qdot imaging has the potential of covering all length scales (from the macro-, micro- to the nano-scales), which is a formidable asset to tackle the complexities and the dynamics of the various molecular and cellular events by probing when and where defined molecules appear, interact, and disappear.

Secondly, our facility provides a collection of high-hand, customized biological fluorescence microscopes and small-animal imaging devices that provide the ability to study these processes with high spatial and temporal resolution in whole organisms and in living cells down to the single molecule detection level with nanometer-accuracy.

Macro-Scale Imaging

Located on the second floor of the CNSI building, an optical suite of 1,000 square feet was specifically designed to house our microscopes with the required environment control (low vibration, air-filtered, air-conditioned to +1oC and light-tight) and services. The facility currently provides: Wide-field Fluorescence Imaging Microscopy, Iterative Deconvolution and Computational Derived Optical Sections, Confocal One-Photon and Two-Photon Laser Scanning Microscopy Imaging, Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS), Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) Microscopy, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM), Time-Correlated-Single-Photon-Counting (TCSPC) and Near-Infrared (NIR) Detection.

For further inquires, contact Laurent Bentolila, Scientific Director at

Equipment Reservations

Bioscience Synthetic Chemistry Core Facility (BSCCF)
Mike Jung, Faculty Director

The Bioscience Synthetic Chemistry Core Facility (BSCCF) provides a dedicated laboratory for the synthesis of small organic molecules to aid bioscience research. Although high throughput screening enables the discovery of molecules with high medicinal potential, or hits, it does not render them in a viable form. The BSCCF is capable of rapidly transforming these hits into usable biological tools. The facility operates in tandem with the Molecular Screening Shared Resources (MSSR) core facility at CNSI, a high throughput facility. With the BSCCF's ability to design and prepare molecules for the testing of biological principles, which can only be done through chemical synthesis, this innovative facility, working with diverse scientific disciplines, is at the forefront of modern bioscience.

When a request for the synthesis of known compounds or analogues of screening hits is submitted by a bioscientist; this request is analyzed by Dr. Michael Jung, the facility director, in coordination with the bioscientist; the design of a synthetic protocol is generated; and lastly an assessment of the feasibility, estimated time and cost is made. Based on the outcome of those discussions about what the high-throughput hits mean and how good they are in terms of drug potential (especially likely non-selective toxicity), a decision is made on how exactly to proceed. Namely whether a synthetic project should be started within the core facility or whether it is better to follow another path, e.g., purchase library compounds, write a grant for support, hire an outside company, and questions of patents and startup opportunities.

At that point, the bioscientist has the option of continuing the collaboration, namely agreeing to the costs and time limitations of the project, which vary widely depending on the structures of the compounds desired, the number of analogues and the amount of materials needed. This initial assessment usually takes only a few days. Once a project is started, the compounds are designed, synthesized and purified by Dr. Xiaolu Cai, a skilled synthetic chemist with significant experience in synthetic chemistry and drug discovery.

UCLA is one of the preeminent institutions in the world for bioscience research and the BSCCF provides bioscience researchers with the synthesis of small organic molecules which are critical to their research work. The facility has the necessary capabilities to perform synthesis rapidly, on request and in-house, saving valuable research time and perhaps leading to drug discovery. The facility provides convenient access to readily usable molecules for the advancement of biology and research aimed at treating human diseases in the 21st century.

Electron Imaging Center for NanoMachines (EICN)
Z. Hong Zhou, Faculty Director
Xing Zhang, Technical Director
Ivo Atanasov, Associate Director

Viewing molecules, materials and molecular machines at high magnification and in three dimensions is important for research at the molecular scale and critical to nanoscience. Through an NIH major instrumentation grant and supports from UCLA, the Electron Imaging Center for Nanomachines (EICN) was established at CNSI to provide advanced electron imaging tools to see macromolecular machineries and to understand their mechanisms of action. EICN is now able to cover nanometer to tens of micrometer size ranges, delivering valuable structural information for cell biological, biomolecular, molecular and materials sciences. The state-of-the-art EICN facility will offer all major electron imaging modalities. Currently available capabilities at EICN include single particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) at near atomic resolution, and cryo-electron tomography (cryoET) at molecular resolution, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM), as well as scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) and energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) analysis for mass and elementary mapping. These structural methods provide exciting opportunities to microbiologists, cell and molecular biologists, chemists and materials scientists for three-dimensional (3D) structural characterization of a wide variety of assemblies, devices and materials. The facility is operated by highly an experienced technical staff who can assist users to address their complex electron imaging needs.

For details about EICN and available instruments, please visit the official EICN website at

For further inquires, contact EICN Help.

Integrated NanoMaterials Lab
Diana Huffaker, Faculty Director
Baolai Liang, Technical Director
Mukul Debnath, Lab Manager

The Integrated NanoMaterials laboratory (INML) is a state of art nano-materials synthesis and characterization facility. We address critical technological needs of the future through nano-material development and to integrate nanoscience with disciplines such as electronics, photonics, renewable energy, chemistry, biology, physics, and medicine.

The INML provides epitaxial services for a wide array of research clients, from Academic groups both here at UCLA and around the world, to National Laboratories and our many partners in Industry. The extensive technological advances made by the INML particularly in the areas of integrated III-Sb/CMOS optoelectronics, IR photonics and electronics form the basis of a large number of our on-going partnerships. We are always interested in generating new collaborations please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss and develop any ideas for future research projects.

Featuring two, interconnected GEN 930 molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) systems, the INML is equipped with the material synthesis, growth monitoring and characterization tools necessary to fabricate a wide range of devices for advanced applications. We grow III-V and III-N compound semiconductor materials in ultra high vacuum (~10 -10 Torr) with emphasis on purity, control and atomic-layer precision. Our strengths in nanomaterial synthesis include growth of nanowires, nanopillars, quantum dots, and semiconductor films the thickness of a single atom. Nanomaterials grown in the INML are used in solar cells, lasers, thermo-photovoltaics, detectors and a wide range of other electronic and photonic devices.

Integrated Systems Nanofabrication Cleanroom (ISNC)
Aydogan Ozcan, Faculty Director
Adam Stieg, Interim Technical Director

The CNSI Integrated Systems Nanofabrication Cleanroom (ISNC) consists of 8,900 square feet of vertical-flow clean room space and 680 square feet of class 10,000 support space. The clean room is divided into 12 process bays and their associated air return chases. There are 4 class 100 bays (3 of which have yellow lights for lithography applications) and 8 class 1,000 bays, 2 of which form a biology suite with its own dedicated air flow system. A full complement of utilities including high purity DI water, high purity nitrogen, reactive gases, chilled water etc. are available to each process bay. The latest advances in vibration isolation and electromagnetic shielding are integrated into the clean space to allow installation of the most sensitive and demanding fabrication and analysis equipment. The layout and wall structure allow for quick change of equipment with minimum impact to the clean room.

The ISNC approach to nanofabrication is unique in that it will integrate classic semiconductor tools and processes with biological, chemical, and medical substrates to extend beyond more traditional nano-device fabrication such as integrated circuits, quantum dots, single electron transistors, nanotips etc. toward DNA, single molecules, proteins and a host of other biologically relevant nanosystems. Traditionally, semiconductor processing excludes these types of applications because of the possibility of cross-contamination and equipment damage. By proper process design and equipment selection, the ISNC provides the opportunity to successfully join standard process techniques with evolving bio-medical and nanoscale fabrication applications. Integrating the biology suite into the clean room allows scientists to keep their samples free of even trace contamination which may affect the outcome of their experiments.

The ISNC uses the Core Lab Management System (CLMS), a centralized account management system. Information on how to become a new User can be found here. This process requires that three forms be filled out, signed by the user and PI, and brought to ISNC Orientation: (1) the New User Application; (2) Project Form; and the CNSI Core Facilities User Agreement. Please note that Users and the respective PI are responsible for maintaining all safety training records required by UCLA Environmental Health & Safety. Information on safety training can be found on the EH&S website.

The ISNC lab calendar is available here.
Listings and descriptions of equipment in the ISNC are available here.
The ISNC User Guide is available here.
Login to the LabRunr equipment management system is available here.
The job submission form for Users of the E-beam lithography tool can be found here.
A list of ISNC personnel and additional contact information is available here.

For additional information on the equipment and services provided by the ISNC, please contact

Macro-Scale Imaging Laboratory
Shimon Weiss, Faculty Director
Laurent A. Bentolila, Scientific Director

The Advanced Light Microscopy/Spectroscopy Shared Facility is assembling a comprehensive collection of instrumentation for macro-scale molecular imaging using fluorescence, near-infrared, life-time and time-gated imaging modalities.

The facility proposes to acquire the most established commercial systems for macro-scale imaging which includes the IVIS 200 from Xenogen Inc., the Maestro™ (CRI Inc.), the eXplore Optix (ART Inc. and General Electric), VisEn, and the CellVizio as well as custom made prototypes based on new detector technology optimized for qdot detection in deep tissues developed in partnership with CNSI members.

The facility will include plans for training of individuals including basic scientists, clinicians, technologists, and support personnel interested in learning the techniques and science of macro-scale imaging including both didactic and hands-on instruction.

Through technological research and development, collaborative research (Academia and Industry), services, training and dissemination of advanced fluorescent microscopy techniques, the CNSI Advanced Light Microscopy/Spectroscopy Shared Facility supports the nanoscale research and teaching efforts at UCLA.

UCLA Molecular Instrumentation Center (MIC)
Jane Strouse, Faculty Director

The UCLA Molecular Instrumentation Center (MIC) is a campus-wide, state-of-the-art core facility that enables the use of modern instrumentation in molecular characterizations. The purpose of the MIC is to meet the needs of the UCLA scientific community by providing all aspects of technical support in the application of modern instrumentation to solve problems in cutting-edge scientific research. The UCLA Molecular Instrumentation Center, managed through the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, encompasses four major areas: Magnetic Resonance, Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics, X-ray Diffraction, and Materials Characterization.

Instrumentation available in the Magnetic Resonance facility includes one EPR spectrometer and six high field NMR spectrometers. Five of the NMR spectrometers are set up for liquid samples and one is appropriately equipped for samples in the solid-state. The Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics laboratory provides a wide range of MS ionization methods that include electron ionization (EI), chemical ionization (CI), matrix assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI), direct analysis in real time (DART), electrospray ionization (ESI), and atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI). MS analyzers include time of flight, quadrupole, ion trap, orbitrap, ion cyclotron resonance (FT) analyzers, and several tandem combinations of mass analyzers. Where appropriate, chromatography is used for separation prior to entrance of the sample into the ion source. Equipment is available for 1-D and 2-D gels, transferring mini and mid-size gels, gel imaging, 1-D and 2-D gel analysis, spot cutting, in-gel digestion, and protein/peptide identification for a large variety of proteomics studies. Current equipment in the X-ray diffraction laboratory includes two single crystal X-ray diffractometers and two powder X-ray diffractometers. The Materials characterization laboratory has a wide range of instruments including light scattering spectrometers, several spectrophotometers; scanning probe microscopes (AFM/STM), a SQUID magnetometer, a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), and an X-Ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (XPS). More information about all of the equipment available in these laboratories can be found at the MIC website:

Professional staff are available in all four areas of the MIC to provide the technical support needed to ensure that the needs of all UCLA researchers are satisfied to the highest possible standards, which in turn will uphold UCLA's tradition of excellence in world-class scientific research.

Molecular Screening Shared Resource (MSSR)
Ken Bradley, Faculty Director
Robert Damoiseaux, Scientific Director

High-throughput screening (HTS) involves assaying a large number of unique molecules in order to identify those that have a specific biological or chemical function. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies have traditionally performed the lion's share of HTS. However, having so much of our screening capacity outside the academic and public research community, and having that capacity narrowly focused on drug discovery, restricts both the pace of basic science as well as its translation into improved health.

Thus, the establishment of academic HTS centers will serve the long-term goals of basic science and health research by providing a much broader range of screens than commercial firms typically undertake. Toward this end, UCLA has established the Molecular Screening Shared Resource (MSSR) to provide HTS capabilities to the academic community. Through close collaborations between physicians, biologists, and chemists, it is our goal to identify molecules with novel functions in basic cellular and molecular biology, and to develop probes and research tools whose uses include but are not limited to direct drug discovery.

In addition, these efforts will gain leverage from the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), as we incorporate new nanotechnologies into the screening process in order to advance miniaturization, improve throughput and reduce costs.

For further inquires, contact Robert Damoiseaux, Scientific Director - Email Address:


Nano and Pico Characterization
James Gimzewski, Faculty Director
Adam Stieg, Scientific Director

The Nano and Pico Characterization Lab (NPC) at CNSI provides access to state-of-the-art methods toward the characterization of surfaces, adsorbates, nanostructures, and devices through the use of Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM).

SPM methods differ from conventional microscopes that use light or beams of charged particles in that the SPM probe is a mechanical object. These systems rely upon a unique, tactile sensing of interactions between sharp probe tips and a sample surface in a similar fashion to that used by a visually impaired person reading Braille. The tiny fingers used in SPM terminate in a tip apex reduced by a factor of approximately 10 million times compared that of your finger.

Since SPM systems directly interact with the material of interest, they are also able to go beyond imaging and probe local physiochemical properties such as friction, adhesion, stiffness/modulus, electrical charge and local magnetism. As a result SPM encompasses a wide variety of underlying techniques typically based on the fundamental methods of Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM) and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM).

STM relies on quantum mechanics to sense a tiny electrical current flowing between the tip and surface, which are not in contact. The overlap of the electron "clouds" of atom and specimen also permits the precise control of individual atoms and molecules in fabrication of nanostructures. This element of control can be thought of as the ultimate limit of fabrication.

Atomic Force Microscopy relies upon sensing tiny forces between the tip and object in order to feel and visualize nanostructures. The method uses a soft spring made from a silicon micromechanical cantilever onto which a sharp tip is attached.

SPM systems in the NPC Lab operate in a diverse range of environments, including the extreme vacuum of space (UHV), atmospheric conditions and even in liquid (including biofluids and electrochemical environments). The CNSI Nano and Pico Characterization core facility encompasses SPM imaging under all these environmental conditions. It is therefore a cornerstone for developing new nanotechnology products and performing nanoscience research.