Auger Electron Spectroscopy (AES) is a surface-sensitive analytical technique that utilizes a high-energy electron beam as an excitation source. Atoms that are excited by the electron beam can subsequently relax, leading to the emission of “Auger” electrons. The kinetic energies of the emitted Auger electrons are characteristic of elements present within the top 3-10 nm of the sample.
This technique was named after French physicist Pierre Victor Auger in 1923. However, most people now recognize Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner as the person that first discovered that the emission of electrons from surfaces of atoms can create energy signatures.
The Auger Electron Spectroscopy technique uses a primary electron beam, typically in the 3 to 25 keV range. Atoms that are excited by the electron beam can relax through the emission of Auger electrons. The kinetic energies of the emitted Auger electrons are measured and are characteristic of elements present at the surface of a sample. The resulting spectrum is usually plotted as the derivative of the signal intensity vs. kinetic energy, with each element showing a unique “fingerprint” for elemental identification.
The electron beam can be rastered over a large or small surface area, or it can be directly focused on a small surface feature. This scanning electron beam also generates secondary electron (SEM) images that are used to locate the features of interest. Auger maps and linescans show the lateral distribution of elements on a surface, while depth profiles can reveal the composition as a function of depth.
With a small electron beam diameter, AES is very useful when investing particles and small areas, as it has the ability to investigate sizes smaller than 25 nm. It also provides a good alternative when thin films are too thin for EDS analysis. AES can sample thin film stacks to a depth of a micron or more with sputtering.
Auger’s high spatial resolution capabilities and surface sensitivity make it the technique of choice for the following types of applications:
EAG has unmatched experience handling both routine and non-routine Auger analysis requests and, for many years, has used Auger Electron Spectroscopy to address a wide variety of industrial analytical applications.
EAG’s extensive Auger Electron Spectroscopy expertise has direct analytical benefits, whether we analyze sub-μm particles to determine contamination sources in wafer processing equipment or analyze defects in electronic devices to investigate the root cause of failures.
Contact us today for your Auger Electron Spectroscopy (AES) needs. Please complete the form below to have an EAG expert contact you.
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