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The imaging powers of chemical microscopy have helped to uncover the smallest worlds that we previously never could see. Uncovering different aspects of particles, such as their shapes and sizes, is only one of its uses. In fact, chemical microscopy can be used in biology to learn about proteins and how DNA reacts to drugs. It can also analyze the most minute formations within various types of materials, like substrates made from glass. 

Recently, the results of chemical microscopy have been enhanced through high resolution imaging. It can help us to see different structures at even the smallest nanoscale. Chemical microscopy has also been improved through artificial intelligence (AI) that can analyze images. From there, this data can be used in real-world applications, like in the identification of cancer.

These methods have been crucial in enhancing the capabilities of chemical microscopy. However, one technique in particular stands out: Focused Ion Beam-Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (FIB-SIMS). Essentially, it combines two processes, a focused ion beam (FIB) and secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), together to utilize their benefits, such as the enhanced detail of imaging. 

FIB-SIMS can be used with dual beam microscopes. As a mass analyzer, it shows us the properties of materials, such as elements and isotopes that are found within minerals. Chemical microscopes can also help us create chemical maps in 3D and provide more information on the characteristics of thin films. 

Right now, it is expected that the market for chemical microscopy will expand by 8% between 2024-2030. As a result, it will be worth around $20.43 billion when we reach 2030. This increase is fuelled by the need for new tools that can enhance the imagery of analyzed materials and structures. 

Many techniques are used to analyze the characteristics of materials. This includes Focused Ion Beam Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (FIB-TOF-SIMS). However, in this article, we are going to focus on how FIB-SIMS enhances the abilities of chemical microscopy.

Join us as we consider chemical microscopy in more detail and how FIB-SIMS improves its results through its high spatial resolution, phase contrast and depth profiling. We will also learn how FIB-SIMS is applied to different areas of research and industries. 

Unmatched Sensitivity and Specificity

One of the cornerstone features of FIB-SIMS is its extraordinary sensitivity and specificity for chemical analysis. The technique’s ability to detect elements and isotopes down to ppm or even ppb levels renders it invaluable in applications where the precise chemical composition and distribution within materials are paramount. This high degree of sensitivity is crucial for unraveling the complexities of advanced materials and facilitating breakthroughs in various scientific domains.

Micro to Nano Scale Resolution

The integration of FIB and SIMS technologies enables chemical imaging with micro to nano scale resolution. This capability is indispensable for the:

  • Examination of microstructures in materials science
  • Investigation of thin films
  • Exploration of biological samples at a sub-cellular level. 

Its ability to analyze materials with such fine resolution allows researchers to gain deeper insights into the fundamental properties and behaviors of diverse substances.

Comprehensive 3D Chemical Mapping

FIB-SIMS stands out for its ability to perform 3D chemical mapping. The mapping offers a comprehensive view of a material’s composition and structure. This aspect is particularly beneficial for fields such as battery research, photovoltaics, and the study of cultural heritage materials. 

Understanding the 3D distribution of elements and compounds within samples can unlock new insights. This distribution can also drive innovation in both scientific research and practical applications.

Versatility Across Different Fields

FIB-SIMS is not only used in chemical microscopy. It can be applied to a wide range of materials, including:

  • Metals
  • Ceramics
  • Biological tissues. 

The broad utility of FIB-SIMS makes it an excellent tool in both industrial and scientific settings:

  • Industry: FIB-SIMS facilitates the development of microelectronics and thin-film devices. 
  • Scientific research: FIB-SIMS enriches the study of cellular structures and aids in mapping drug distributions within biological systems.

Enhanced Analysis Through Correlative Microscopy

The combination of FIB-SIMS with other microscopy techniques paves the way for correlative microscopy studies. Examples of these techniques include:

  • Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) 
  • Confocal microscopy.

This integrative approach enhances the analysis by correlating structural and chemical information, thereby offering a more holistic understanding of the samples under investigation.

Correlative microscopy represents a significant stride forward in the pursuit of comprehensive material characterization, creating new research avenues in materials science and biology. 

FIB-SIMS demonstrates a pivotal development in chemical microscopy. It is distinguished by its:

  • High sensitivity
  • Exceptional spatial resolution, through the primary ion beam’s energy and spot size
  • Capability for detailed 3D chemical mapping.

Its versatility across various fields and the potential for enhanced analysis through correlative microscopy underscores its significant contributions to advancing scientific research and industrial innovation. 

As we explore the frontiers of material science, FIB-SIMS is a testament to the evolution of analytical techniques.

Hiden Analytical Can Help You Find The Perfect FIB-SIMS Product

FIB-SIMs can enhance the properties of chemical microscopy tools. They can uncover information about structures at a nanoscale size and analyze chemicals to create 3D maps. 

Chemical microscopy aside, it is important to see the potential in FIB-SIMS. Already, there is research being undertaken to see how FIB-SIMS can be applied to solar power and the formation of Li-ion batteries. So, the future is clearly bright for FIB-SIMS. 

Are you ready to use all the benefits of FIB-SIMS? Well, why not try the FIB-SIMS-related technology here at Hiden Analytical!

We have FIB-SIMS tools available that can analyze materials at nanoscale levels. These instruments can be used for uncovering information about isotopes, including 71Ga and 69Ga, elements and ions. With their extensive capabilities, our technology can help characterize the surfaces of different materials, before capturing them in 3D. 

Browse through our products and learn more about how they can make an impact on your research. Whether you are using FIB-SIMS in chemical microscopy, or a different area of research, we can help you locate the right tools for your work. 

Reach out to us today and learn how our FIB-SIMS tools could support you in making your next discovery.


  1. Influence of Water on Aging Phenomena of Calendric Stored and Cycled Li-Ion Batteries  http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nanoenergyadv4020011
  2. Differentially pumped quadrupole SIMS probe on FIB-based and two-beam microscopes http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/sia.5665
  3. Combined focused ion beam and secondary ion mass spectrometry for high-resolution light element detection applied on Li-Ion batteries http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1431927621003822