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Ultra-low landing energy scanning electron microscopy for nanoengineering applications and metrology



Michael T. Postek, Andras Vladar, Dianne L. Poster, Atsushi Muto, Takeshi Sunaoshi


A new and exciting imaging technique being applied to thin films, nanocoatings, nanogels, and nanoparticle analysis is ultra-low accelerating voltage or ultra-low-landing-energy scanning electron microscopy (ULVSEM). Instrument conditions in this mode are different than with typical SEM observation or contemporary low accelerating voltage (LVSEM) imaging. Hence, the images appear far different due to reduced beam penetration. The landing energy of the primary electron beam can be much lower than LVSEM, it can be reduced to far below 500 electron volts (eV), even as low as 10 eV. Thus, the electron beam range and penetration are reduced tremendously with some unavoidable loss of spatial resolution. Surface details are enhanced, contrast might favorably change, and secondary electron (SE) edge enhancement or "blooming" contributing to measurement uncertainty is greatly reduced, potentially allowing for more precise and new measurements once this imaging mode is fully characterized and accurately modeled. High-resolution field-emission electron sources, improved lens, detector designs, and sample biasing all contribute to the ability to image at such low electron landing energies. The techniques of ULVSEM are discussed, and an application example is presented.
Proceedings Title
SPIE Optics Photonics 2020 Digital Forum
Proc. SPIE 11467
Conference Dates
August 24-26, 2020
Conference Location
Bellingham, WA, US
Conference Title
Nanoengineering: Fabrication, Properties, Optics, Thin Films, and Devices XVII


scanning electron microscopy, SEM, ultra-low landing energy, nanometrology, nanocoatings, nanogels, nanoparticles


Postek, M. , Vladar, A. , Poster, D. , Muto, A. and Sunaoshi, T. (2020), Ultra-low landing energy scanning electron microscopy for nanoengineering applications and metrology, SPIE Optics Photonics 2020 Digital Forum, Bellingham, WA, US, [online],, (Accessed May 22, 2024)


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Created August 20, 2020, Updated October 12, 2021