Auger Electron Spectroscopy (AES) is a widely used surface analysis technique with several applications across industries including medical device, electronics, hard drive, and other general manufacturing segments. Is AES a fit for your unique testing needs? Well, that all depends.
Every analytical technique has pros and cons, which means selecting the right testing method is critical for achieving the results you desire. Sample size, sample compatibility, type of material, and other factors play a significant role in making that selection.
So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of Auger Electron Spectroscopy? Let’s dive in.
Advantages of Auger Electron Spectroscopy
AES is exciting. Literally. AES, which is also referred to as scanning Auger microscopy, is a surface-sensitive technique that uses a high-energy electron beam to excite atoms. When these atoms relax, they emit Auger electrons and the kinetic energy of these electrons is evident in the top 3-5 nm of the sample. Here’s why all that matters.
AES was specifically designed to analyze conductive and semi-conductive surfaces. By measuring the atomic energy of electrons, AES is able to reveal the composition of a surface. And due to its high spatial resolution (< 1 micron), Auger analysis provides manufacturers with an in-depth mapping of the spatial distribution of a surface’s constituents and an in-depth profile of chemicals in the bulk of the material. This helps manufacturers zero-in on the sources of contamination, stains, or inclusions.
2. Auger analysis works well in “small places.”
The ability to focus the electron beam on areas 1-2 microns in diameter makes AES an ideal choice for identifying the elemental composition of areas such as small diameter wires or bonding pads, and passivation layers.
3. Advances in AES have improved accuracy and turnaround.
AES registers with high sensitivity when chemical analyzers are run. In addition, output rates are high during data processing. This means that when you work with an experienced AES lab, analysis can be done in as little as 30 minutes; with results in your hands as soon as one business day.
AES in Action
The Innovatech Labs team performed AES on a Nitinol stent to determine whether any impurities were present as well as the thickness of the passivation layer. In the end, results showed that the passivation layer was free of chemical impurities and it was the proper thickness, allowing our client to breathe easy.
Disadvantages of Auger Electron Spectroscopy
AES provides compelling results in some testing scenarios, but it’s not ideal in all situations. The following are a couple reasons why AES may not be a fit for your needs.
1. AES is not for all materials.
AES testing only works on conductive and semi-conductive materials that are vacuum compatible. So if you’re trying to test a polymer, glass, or other insulating material, you will not get the results you’re looking for. And, while all those electron beams can be exciting, they can also result in surface damage for some samples.
2. Reproducibility of results can be a challenge.
AES is associated with a relative error rate of 10%, which is the estimated error in repeated analyses. It also has a 20% rate of absolute errors, which is the rate of the error between analysis and the known standard. More precise data may be possible, but requires more work.
Based on these factors, AES would not be a good test for a haze on a polyimide film, for example. The good news is that there is a perfect solution for that issue — X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy — and it’s also offered by Innovatech Lab.
Is AES a Fit for Your Materials Analysis Needs?
AES is a reliable quality assurance tool for in-depth surface analysis of conductive and semi-conductive materials. If you think Auger analysis is a fit for your needs, or would like more information on our AES testing services, contact Innovatech Labs or request a quote.
If you’re unsure what materials analysis will best meet your objective, we can decipher your needs. Since 1990, our lab has helped clients in the medical device, electronics, and general manufacturing industries identify testing needs.
Need test results fast? That’s not a problem. We provide the results when you need them. While standard turnaround is just ten business days, with expedited analysis, you can get your results in just 24-48 hours.