CEMMA was established in 1983 by groups from the Departments of Materials Science and Biology. In 1961 the facilities in the Biological Sciences Department consisted of an RCA TEM and a Sorvall ultramicrotome. A JEOL TEM, an ISI SEM and three ultromicrotomes were added during the 1970's. The activities in the Materials Science Department began in 1972 with the Electron Beam Instruments Facility based on a Hitachi transmission electron microscope (TEM), and ARL electron probe microanalyzer (EPMA), and a Cambridge scanning electron microscope (SEM).
These instruments were later augmented with a Tracor Northern energy dispersive spectrometer(EDS) and an ARL secondary ion mass spectrometer (SIMS). As research demands grew, both groups sought to improve their microstructural and microanalytical capabilities. Major equipment acquisitions were: a Philips 420T analytical electron microscope in 1983, a JEOL 100CX transmission electron microscope in 1984, a Physical Electronics Instruments 660 scanning Auger microprobe in 1987, a Cambridge 360 scanning electron microscope in 1989, an Akashi 002B high resolution transmission electron microscope in 1990, and an x-ray diffractometer in 1991. All of these instruments are housed in CEMMA and maintained by CEMMA staff.