In cooperation with Iowa State University and with funding from the US Department of Energy, Ames Laboratory's state-of-the-art characterization Sensitive Instrument Facility (SIF) houses current and next-generation characterization instruments. This uniquely constructed space enables the study of structure and chemistry at the atomic scale by isolating instruments from thermal, vibration, and electromagnetic interference. Unique details include two-feet thick concrete floors with built-in vibration dampening layers, aluminum-plate lined bays, and fiberglass reinforced concrete for electro-magnetic isolation, and vibration-free heating and ventilation. These features help ensure the instrumentation achieves the highest possible resolution.

The SIF provides a suite of four electron microscopes, sample preparation spaces, control rooms, and staff support space. Sample preparation facilities include dry and wet laboratories equipped for standard metallography preparation for SEM and TEM.