Detecting the Source of Computer Head Crashes

Auger Electron Spectroscopy Determines Disc Defects

Auger maps of hard disc defects

Imagine preparing for a critical presentation tomorrow, only to discover that all of your research is gone! You just experienced a head crash. If you can’t recover the information, it may help you to know that you can use Auger electron spectroscopy to examine the aftermath of a head crash and determine what went wrong.

Determine Surface Layer Composition

Auger electron spectroscopy can determine the source of a head crash occurring on a magnetic disk. A head crash causes physical damage to a hard disk when a faulty mechanism causes the read-write head to land on the rotating platter, damaging the magnetic film on the disk’s surface. The magnetic film is the portion of the disk where all of the data is stored. Scraping the magnetic material off the platter takes the data along with it.

Auger electron spectroscopy was developed in the late 1960’s, deriving its name from Pierre Auger, a French physicist, who, in the 1920’s, observed the “radiation-less” relaxation of excited ions in a cloud chamber. Auger electron spectroscopy is a surface-specific technique utilizing the emission of low energy electrons. Auger electron spectroscopy is one of the most commonly employed surface analysis techniques that uses a probing electron beam to determine the composition of the surface layer of a sample.

Generating Auger Maps with a Focused Electron Beam

A key capability of Auger electron spectroscopy is the ability to focus an electron beam on a small area. The resulting image has a resolution similar to that of an electron microscope. Scanning the electron beam across the surface generates element-specific Auger maps. Auger signals are measured at each point of the selected spot. Signal intensity at the highest point relates to a pixel on the Auger map. The characteristics and number of the elements are ascertained from the kinetic energy and concentration of the Auger peaks – the brighter the pixel, the higher the concentration of the specie that is being mapped.

Applications of Auger electron spectroscopy include failure analysis, materials categorization, thin film examination and magnetic disk corrosion or damage analysis.
Materials testing is a field that can benefit a large number of industries. At Innovatech Labs, we meet our client’s challenges with a variety of different applications. Delaminating layers, products breaking when they shouldn’t, discolored surfaces, strange odors, corrosion issues and more. Sound useful? Submit a product or sample today and we’ll identify the cause of product failure. For more information, please visit

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