New materials, new ideas, and new products have led to exponential growth in technologies over the years. With the ever-increasing advancements of materials in our everyday products, analytical testing has become a critical stage in product development and failure analysis. As components in a final product decrease in size, there is a greater need to pinpoint areas within a sample for testing. This is where a Focused Ion Beam (FIB) instrument can help.
FIB is used to create precise cross sections of a sample with small, difficult-to-access features such as those found in the semiconductor and battery industries. These prepared sections are then used for subsequent imaging in Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), or Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (STEM).
FIB works very well with numerous materials; however, it’s not the best method to be used for all materials.
A focused ion beam which physically bombards the sample generates a lot of heat during the milling. For more sensitive materials such as lithium metal and soft polymers, ion beam damage may occur limiting image resolution.
What can be done to prevent this? Functional parts such as a Cryo stage have been developed to fit the needs of various kinds of materials and structures that are difficult to be analyzed under normal conditions. At Eurofins EAG, we explore various services that can enhance and improve material analyses for our clients. In this scenario, we offer Cryogenic Focused Ion Beam (Cryo-FIB) services. Cryo FIB uses traditional FIB techniques but with a sample stage that can be controlled to -135°C. This makes it more suitable for lithium-ion battery materials, soft polymers, biological specimens and any samples that are sensitive to water and temperature. The lower temperature protects and minimizes damage to the sample.
The following examples compare room temperature FIB/SEM and Cryo FIB/SEM.
As you can see in these images, the polymer fiber has melted from the room temperature ion beam and the cross section is unrecognizable (left image). Using Cryo FIB, the fiber structure and texture are preserved (right image).
In this lithium metal example, the room temperature ion beam creates a rough cross section surface (left image) while Cryo FIB creates a smooth and clean cross section (right image) which benefits SEM imaging and TEM sample preparation. Not only do we have Cryo FIB but we also offer Cryo TEM which helps with a seamless transition between the two tools.
So the question is… how do you know which type of FIB you should use, FIB or Cryo FIB? Well, we can help guide you in making that decision! At Eurofins EAG, we work closely with our clients to make sure we are using the best suited tools and techniques for your project. With our wide range of analytical services, we have the ability to tailor to your needs.
Contact us to learn more about Cryo FIB and look out for our upcoming blog about its complementary technique, Cryo TEM.
RBS is the one technique where we can really say that the composition and concentration are accurately determined for thin films.
TEM, STEM and AC-STEM techniques deliver high resolution images providing a detailed view of a material or product.
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