Excellence in Microscopy and Microanalysis since 1958

EMU Historic Snapshots

Back in the 1950s, there was growing demand from researchers across the University of Sydney for access to electron microscopy, a new technology seen as an essential tool for research in the life and physical sciences.

The University of Sydney, with distinct farsightedness, decided to meet this need by providing an electron microscope and highly qualified support staff as part of a centralised campus facility that would function as a 'corporate academic unit', independent of the faculties and serving all equally. Thus the Electron Microscope Unit (EMU) was established in 1958.

Over the years, the EMU has grown from two staff and one microscope to a cohort of over 40, including academic, research and technical staff, and more than 20 PhD students. It is a core research facility of the University, providing researchers from across the campus and beyond with access to advanced instruments and expertise in microscopy and microanalysis. SMM hosts over 30 major instruments across transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, light-optical and confocal microscopy, scanned probe microscopy, atom probe tomography, X-ray microtomography and X-ray diffraction. Also available are dedicated specimen preparation laboratories for materials science, surface science, biological science, and live-cell culturing; and computational studios for image visualisation, simulation and analysis.

In 1995, the Australian Research Council (ARC) established the Australian Key Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis at the EMU under the ARC's Research Centres Program. The Key Centre soon became a national leader and focal point in research involving the development of new methodologies and techniques, as well as advanced applications of microscopy and microanalysis. It also began delivering award programs of study in microscopy and microanalysis and undertaking industry and community outreach. After the Key Centre’s funding from the ARC ceased in 2000, it became the research and teaching arm of the EMU.

In 2002, the Commonwealth Government established the Nanostructural Analysis Network Organisation (NANO) Major National Research Facility (MNRF) under the Backing Australia's Ability Program. NANO was headquartered at the EMU, and after five years of successful operation, the MNRF came to the end of its funding period on 30 June 2007.

In July 2007, Microscopy Australia (formerly AMMRF) was established under the Commonwealth Government's National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), as a successor to the NANO-MNRF. Since then, the EMU has been the headquarters of Microscopy Australia, Australia's leading facility for characterisation of matter on fine length scales.

In 2010, the University of Sydney renamed the EMU and the Key Centre the Australian Centre for Microscopy & Microanalysis (ACMM). This change was made in recognition of the unit’s importance to Sydney’s own research as well as the centre’s leadership role in microscopy and microanalysis across Australia. The name acknowledges that the centre does much more than 'just' electron microscopy today, and it positions the centre for future success in supporting, and doing, research enabled by advanced microscopy.

EMU History Images – Today