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Auger Electron Spectroscopy (AES) is used to determine surface elemental compositions with both good lateral and depth resolution. All elements can be detected in the range Li to U with detection limits from 0.1 atomic% and above depending upon the element of interest. The excellent lateral resolution permits imaging to the nanometre scale. A sequential combination of AES analysis and inert ion bombardment permits depth profiling to be carried out with nanometre depth resolution. AES is typically used for the analysis of metals and semiconductors but can also be used to interrogate flat glasses and ceramics.

Typical applications

  • Characterisation of defects, particles or other features requiring good lateral or depth resolution
  • Depth profiling to determine oxide or overlayer thicknesses and compositions
  • Analysis of multilayers and buried interfaces
  • Analysis of fracture surfaces


The surface of a solid sample is irradiated with a beam of electrons; which have an energy typically in the range 3 to 10 keV. Incident electrons of this energy interact with core level electrons in the atoms of the surface, resulting in their emission from the parent atom. Auger electrons are generated as a result of one of the processes by which the atom then relaxes. The energy of the Auger electrons emitted from the surface are characteristic of the atoms from which they derive and hence, by measuring the electron energy distribution, or spectrum, the atoms in the surface can be identified. In addition, the emitted electrons are of such an energy that only those from the top few atomic layers have a significant chance of escaping from the surface without losing energy, hence the technique is highly surface sensitive.


Analysis area 30 nm-300 um across Analysis depth around 2 nm (a few atomic layers) Quantitative with standards, semiquantitative without Detection limits typically 0.1-1 atom % Depth profiling from the nanometre scale to microns with nanometre

Item ID #155.

Last Updated: 4th October, 2012