How do Ion Milling Systems Work?

Ion milling systems are used to prepare samples for analysis by removing the top layer of a sample. Read on for how ion milling systems work.

Ion milling systems designed for microscopy are used to prepare samples for scanning electron microscope (SEM) or transmission electron microscope (TEM) analysis. This is done by removing an outer layer of a sample, creating a cross section, a polished surface or preparing an ultrathin sample. The result is a clean, undamaged surface ideal for high-resolution imaging. This post will provide an overview of how ion milling systems work and their applications.

How Does an Ion Milling System Work?

Ion milling systems for sample preparation in microscopy can be broken down into two categories: Broad Ion Beam and Focused Ion Beam (FIB). In each case, ions are used to mill away the surface of a sample exposed to the ion beam. Broad Ion Beam milling systems are popular for use in SEM sample preparation where they create a pristine surface or cross section for SEM observation and analysis. In these systems, a sample is protected by a shield plate and placed in the beam path of a broad Argon ion beam. Only the area of the sample exposed (protruding from the shield plate) gets milled away. In contrast, FIB milling systems use a finely focused beam of ions (typically gallium ions) to mill away a sample surface. FIB milling systems are used for both SEM and TEM sample preparation. With FIB, successive milling in very small, targeted areas can be accomplished to view the three dimensional subsurface of a sample or to create ultra-thin samples suitable for TEM.

The Advantages of Ion Milling

Why invest in an ion milling system? Ion milling eliminates artifacts associated with traditional mechanical preparation methods and prepares surfaces with minimal strain or distortion. It is often the only way to create high quality surfaces or thin sections that are required in high resolution imaging and analysis in SEM and TEM. Materials that are difficult to handle such as: brittle materials, multilayer samples with differences in hardness or thermal expansion, fragile materials, thermally sensitive or air sensitive samples are easily managed in ion milling systems.
Having an undamaged sample is crucial for accurate analysis.

Broad Ion Milling or FIB? How do I Choose?

Choose FIB for TEM thin-film sample preparation. It is also perfect for creating cross sections where precise positioning of very small features is required. In addition, FIB is great for three-dimensional visualization of images or analysis data (such as EDS or EBSD) by successive milling and imaging. A broad ion milling system is an economical choice if cross sections for SEM observation and analysis is all that is required. These systems also provide cross sections over a much wider area when compared with FIB. Cross sections in the range of 1mm to 8mm wide can be achieved with Broad Ion Beam milling.

JEOL USA: Ion Milling Systems

JEOL offers a range of sample preparation tools from Focused Ion Beam (FIB) systems to our Cross Section Polisher, a benchtop, broad ion beam instrument. These instruments are ideal for preparing battery materials, ceramics, multilayer coatings, polymers, environmentally sensitive materials, semiconductor devices and more.

Cross Section Polisher (CP)

Our Cross Section Polisher is used for preparing samples for imaging and analysis via SEM. It creates polished cross sections of a sample and is suitable for a wide range of hard and soft materials such as battery components, ceramics, metals, polymers, composites, and electronics etc. Key features of the CP include easy set-up, high-speed, and intermittent milling for temperature sensitive samples and the ability to create wide area cross sections (up to 8 mm). In addition, our cooling model is ideal for temperature or air sensitive samples as might be found with biological samples, polymers, catalysts or lithium-ion battery materials. An air isolation transfer vessel is included with our cooling model and this vessel is compatible with our SEMs.
Contact us today about our cross section polisher broad ion beam milling system.

Focused Ion Beam

JEOL’s new focused ion beam instrument, the JIB-PS500i FIB-SEM, is a hybrid of FIB technology and SEM designed for high-resolution analysis and high throughput specimen milling, observation, and transfer to the TEM. With the ability to prepare samples thinner than 30nm, the FIB-SEM enables superior atomic resolution imaging and analysis with STEM and TEM. The fine milling capabilities of the FIB-SEM are essential for quality lamella preparation for imaging, EDS analysis, and 3D microscopy. The high current (up to 100 nA) FIB column is especially effective for large-area milling and analysis, and is ideal for semiconductor samples.
Ion Milling System
Contact us today for more information on the new Focused Ion Beam milling system, the JEOL FIB-SEM.




Showing 1 Comment

Kent Yeung 8 months ago

We are examining the possibility of applying ion milling to the polishing of polycrystalline surface. Please further discuss with me on email,

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