Bombardment of a sample surface with a primary ion beam followed by mass spectrometry of the emitted secondary ions constitutes secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS).
The first inklings of the SIMS process came when early mass spectroscopists noticed that ions from instrument construction materials were produced by ion sources. Later experiments extracted ions from the sources and accelerated them onto the sample, thereby producing the first SIMS primary ion beam. The first SIMS instrument was constructed under a NASA contract in the early 1960’s to analyze moon rocks. When it performed better than expected, exact copies of the prototype were introduced into the market place. The use of SIMS for materials characterization has grown steadily during the intervening 30 years.
SIMS measures trace levels of all elements in the periodic table. SIMS also provides lateral and depth distributions (microanalysis) of these elements within a sample. The electronic materials industries (semiconductors, optoelectric devices, etc.) are the largest users of SIMS. The geological community also uses SIMS for laterally resolved isotopic and elemental measurements.
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