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Barriers to Quantitative Electron Probe X-Ray Microanalysis for Low Voltage Scanning Electron Microscopy



Dale E. Newbury


Low voltage x-ray microanalysis, defined as being performed with an incident beam energy less than or equal to 5 keV, can achieve spatial resolution, laterally and in depth, of 100 nm or less, depending on the exact selection of beam energy and the composition of the target. The shallow depth of beam penetration, with the consequent short path length for x-ray absorption, and the low overvoltage, the ratio of beam energy to the critical ionization energy, both contribute to minimizing the matrix effects in quantitative x-ray microanalysis when the unknown is compared to pure element standards. The low beam energy restricts the energy of the atomic shells that can be excited, forcing the analyst to choose unfamiliar shells/characteristic peaks. The low photon energy shells are subject to low fluorescence yield, so that the peak-to-continuum background is reduced, severely limiting detectability. The limited resolution of semiconductor energy dispersive spectrometry results in frequent peak interference situations and further exacerbates detection limits. Future improvements to the x-ray spectrometry limitations are possible with x-ray optics augmented wavelength dispersive spectrometry and microcalorimeter energy dispersive spectrometry.
Journal of Research (NIST JRES) -
107 No. 6


electron probe x-ray microanalyzer, energy dispersive spectrometry, low voltage microanalysis, scanning electron microscope, wavelength dispersive spectrometry, x-ray spectrometry


Newbury, D. (2002), Barriers to Quantitative Electron Probe X-Ray Microanalysis for Low Voltage Scanning Electron Microscopy, Journal of Research (NIST JRES), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD (Accessed May 30, 2024)


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Created December 1, 2002, Updated February 17, 2017