Right on Target Analysis

Materials Scientists (Academics and Industrial)

NanoScope Services offers 3 high end services in sample preparation and Analysis.

Focused Ion Beam (FIB) provides many possibilities for preparing sections not possible using more conventional mechanical polishing or sectioning methods.

Ion Beam imaging may be done with secondary electrons or ions and offers greater materials contrast than SEM imaging. Unlike electrons, the information comes from the top few nm’s of the sample, and resolutions are comparable at 5nm’s or less.

For a detailed description of the equipment and techniques available, go to the Tools and Techniques page.

FIB prepared Micro Cross-sections with SE/SI imaging.

A FIB microscope can precisely locate and section any feature on a sample and directly take images of it. Multiple slices (even with different orientations) can be taken through the same feature to provide 3D information.

There are 4 clear advantages

  1. It is ECONOMICAL, EASY and FAST. Preparing a conventional mechanical section through a complex material takes time. FIB is efficient, versatile and cost effective, with samples processed quickly and the images emailed directly to you.
  2. EXACT LOCATION and ORIENTATION – a FIB micro section may be prepared at a very precise location on the specimen surface. This can be through a specific feature or failure, interface or particle, even a crack or void. The orientation of the section may also be defined. Multiple sections may be taken through the same feature or in very close proximity, with each one being uniquely positioned and orientated as desired.
  3. MATERIALS INDEPENDENT – The FIB process is largely independent of materials hardness or structure. Softer materials do not smear, harder materials are polished at similar rates to softer ones, and interfaces are preserved.
  4. MINIMAL MECHANICAL PREPARATION is required for FIB processing. If the sample is small enough to be loaded and is clean and vacuum compatible it can be sectioned.

FIB Prepared ‘Ultra thin’ TEM sections.

This tried and tested process has been used routinely for many years and successfully applied by NanoScope to prepare customers samples from over 200 materials systems.

There are 4 clear advantages

  1. EXACT LOCATION and ORIENTATION – Have your ‘ultra thin’ section prepared from exactly where you would like. Specify the orientation of each section as well.
  2. MATERIALS INDEPENDENT – The FIB milling process is largely independent of materials hardness or structure. Complex materials combinations and devices are possible to prepare within a single section.
  3. ‘LARGE’ IMAGING AREA – A FIB prepared section tends to be of uniform imaging thickness and quality, allowing information to be collected across the majority of the section area.
  4. MINIMAL MECHANICAL PREPARATION. Most samples are immediately acceptable for FIB processing without embedding and slicing or cleaving and grinding. If it is clean and small enough, vacuum compatible and has a flat(ish) top surface it can probably be loaded immediately.

TEM Analysis of FIB prepared sections

A variety of TEM instruments may be used for your high end imaging and analysis requirements.

Select the analytical TEM techniques you require from this list of capabilities:-

  1. Bright/Dark field imaging with referenced metrology as required.
  2. Diffraction patterns taken from your specified points.
  3. Elemental Analysis either as points, linescans or maps to identify which materials are present and their locations.

For more detailed information about TEM Analysis please contact us.

An Ion Beam image of a TEM section machined through a high speed transistor showing grain structure and voiding.

An Ion Beam image of a FIB prepared TEM section prior to ex-situ extraction to TEM grid.

An ion beam image of a site specific TEM section machined through a MEMS cog prior to extraction to grid.


Microscopy accessories and services

Nanometer scale orientation and strain imaging upgrades for TEM’s

In this article I discuss some interesting developments in the area of FIB technology, and its use for nano-fabrication. In this case the production of of X-ray Fresnel Zone Plates with some surprising new characteristics. These results were published recently in the journal ‘Optics Express’ and so maybe weren’t very visible via the normal Nano-fabrication, Lithography or FIB technology channels. (and yes I am a co-author). Ion beam lithography for Fresnel zone plates in X-ray microscopy  – Optics Express, Vol. 21 Issue 10, pp.11747-11756 (2013) This paper is interesting for 2 main reasons. The first is how FIB technology can benefit, by moving from an analytical SEM platform (FIB-SEM), to an Electron Beam Lithography architecture more suited to ultra-fine nano-patterning. The second reason is that this new precision has been successfully employed in advancing our understanding of X-ray optics, in this case, the structure of Fresnel Zone Plates and its effects. What’s new for FIB heads? Well this example shows a high precision, fully automated, large pattern FIB milling operation, being used to directly fabricate a working Fresnel Zone Plate lens. This was done over a extended period (16 hrs) and within a tiny total cumulative positional error budget (total of 20nm’s) – far beyond conventional instrument capabilities. Also FZP lens functionality relies absolutely on the total pattern precision across the full write field (100x100microns). In this case this had to be accurate down to <5 nanometers (beyond the deflection precision and stability of a conventional microscope). The additional requirements of using a small Gallium beam size with a ‘low tails’ profile, combined with constant beam ‘circularity’ under high deflection, and current stability over long periods are also of particular...

FIB is cool – but what about blogging?

Apparently the only two things that you should never try are folk music and incest, so blogging must surely be in the other column. Well here goes…. I’m a first generation pure FIB technologist – in that my first microscope was a Focussed Ion Beam instrument and I only learned how to use an SEM and other techniques later on. The immediacy and interactive nano-surgery capabilities of the technology, captured my interest on day one, and I’m as hooked now as I was then. Since 1992 I have been lucky enough to work for Rutherford Appleton, FEI Company (twice), Micrion Corporation, Raith GmbH and now NanoScope Services. I’ve helped develop many of the main aspects of how this technology is employed – from writing the first published FEI TEM sample prep protocol, and developing new sample holders for the 611 and FIB 800, through 3D gun-shot residue and forensic analysis and AFM tip customisation to leading the applications initiative for using Cryo-DualBeam within the Life-Sciences. The latest major project was developing and rolling out an entirely new FIB technique for truly automated 3D nano-fabrication using ultra fine Ga+ beams now called IBL or Ion Beam Lithography for Raith GmbH (see ionLiNE). I have become co-author on over 100 publications for this application alone. ( I don’t have time to write papers myself). FIB is cool, and everyday we get to do cool new stuff for scientists and engineers from across the Nanotech spectrum. From Circuit Edit to Solid State Nanopores and Fibroblast sectioning, from VCSELs and OLED’s to GSR and FZP’s, FIB is enabling us to explore and execute the...
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