The Microstructural Analysis Lab or Microstructural Characterization Lab (MCL) was established through the Center for Manufacturing Research to provide support for Tennessee's industrial and engineering community in meeting the challenge of technology development. As the need to understand manufacturing processes grows, so too do the requirements for an interdisciplinary approach to research and development for material characterization and analysis. One of MCL's integral functions is to provide a working interface between the university and industry. This includes strong interactions with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Testing Laboratory, as well as other university departments and colleges. This also includes well-established procedures for handling proprietary information in conjunction with private firms.
The scientific and technical capabilities of the MCL offer professional personnel trained in the operation of analytical instrumentation and characterization equipment. With the recent updates to the MCL, rapid digital imaging and characterization of test specimen is now possible. Morphology and topographical characterization is available for a wide range of materials, including (but not limited to) polymers, ceramics, metals, alloys and composites. The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) is also equipped with x-ray energy-dispersive microanalysis technology providing semi-quantitative elemental analysis. Additionally, the Center's SEM is used in failure analysis and prevention.