Focused ion beam technologies, considered to be an emerging field within electron microscopy, are used in a multitude of scientific disciplines for site-specific analysis, milling, micromachining, deposition, and imaging. This article will serve as an overview of focused ion beam technologies and how they are used in nanostructural analysis.
What are Focused Ion Beams?
Focused ion beam (sometimes referred to as FIB) is a method that is often used in materials science, semiconductor industry, and biological fields for the analysis, deposition, and ablation of materials. A focused ion beam setup is a scientific instrument that looks similar to a scanning electron microscope (SEM).
Whereas SEMs use a focused beam of electrons to image a given sample, FIBs use a beam of focused ions to image, mill, deposit, etc. Focused ion beams can be incorporated into a system in which both electron and ion beam columns are present, which means that the same feature can be investigated with either of the beams.
Dual-beam (SEM + FIB) platforms serve as multifunctional tools for direct lithography for nanostructural analysis. These platforms combine a high-resolution scanning electron microscope and a focused ion beam column which is also equipped with precursor-based gas injection systems, micromanipulators, and chemical analysis tools.
Focused ion beams are the primary technique used for site-specific micro and nanostructural analysis, particularly when hard materials with hard substrates are concerned. Focused ion beam sectioning and sampling methods are often used for uncovering the structural and morphological distributions within material systems, which can be done with nanoscale precision in three dimensions.
What is Nanostructural Analysis?
A nanostructure is a structure of a non-specific size between microscopic and molecular structures. Nanostructural detail refers to microstructure at the nanoscale, and when describing nanostructures it is important to differentiate between the number of dimensions in the volume of an object which are on the nanoscale. Nanotextured surfaces have one dimension which is on the nanoscale such as the thickness, whereas nanotubes have two dimensions that are on the nanoscale and spherical nanoparticles have three dimensions on the nanoscale.
Using Focused Ion Beams to Carry Out Nanostructural Analysis
Focused ion beam milling enables manipulation of the shape and size of nanostructures to create geometries that may be useful for thermoelectrics, optoelectronics, and quantum computing.
At JEOL, we are experts in metrology and analytical instruments. If you would like to find out more about how we can help with focused ion beam technology, contact us today for more information.