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Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) is advantageous for its high sensitivity and the ability to provide high spatial resolution elemental and molecular information as a function of depth. This makes SIMS imaging an essential tool for depth profiling, where samples’ chemical/molecular information is investigated layer by layer. It is compatible with a wide range of different species, providing high sensitivity down to the parts-per-billion range, enabling researchers to identify the composition in the top nanometres or microns. Scientists can accurately obtain these measurements through SIMS imaging depth profiling as it offers high throughput; in this blog post, we will look at why SIMS imaging is used for depth profiling and the benefits it provides. 

What is SIMS Imaging?

SIMS imaging is a highly sensitive imaging technique commonly used to analyse the surface properties of solid materials. It can detect contamination, impurity elements, defects, and other vital information about a sample. There are many materials that can be inspected with SIMS, including single cells, tissues, and a wide selection of manufactured materials. 

Read our introductory blog for more information on how SIMS imaging works

Advantages of Using SIMS Imaging for Depth Profiling

Several analytical techniques can be used for depth profiling other than SIMS imaging. The other options are glow discharge optical emission spectroscopy (GDOES), time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), all of which come with their own advantages. However, SIMS imaging is often preferred due to its high spatial resolution and enhanced sensitivity. It is advantageous as it allows scientists to select small regions to measure the depth profile and thus include or reject localised features after the analysis is actually made.

SIMS imaging is a reliable method of analysis for depth profiling because it is a technique that can identify and help visualise trace amounts of impurities, contaminants, and other substances in a sample and requires minimal sample preparation. It also offers information on the distribution of elements with depth within a sample.  SIMS imaging can provide a 3D picture of sample composition

Other advantages of SIMS imaging include the following:

  • High sensitivity: SIMS imaging can detect concentrations of elements and compositional data down to parts per billion, which makes it an extremely sensitive method.
  • High spatial resolution: Scientists can analyse the most minute components of a sample as SIMS imaging offers spatial resolution down to the nanometer scale.

These advantages are crucial for the depth profiling process because it supports researchers in obtaining information about composition and depth below the surface level of a material. SIMS imaging also analyses layered structures and presents sample compositions with depth information in three dimensions.

Hiden Analytical and SIMS Imaging

Hiden Analytical offers a range of highly sensitive instruments suitable for depth profiling through dynamic and static SIMS. Our SIMS instruments, such as the SIMS Workstation, are frequently used to analyse biological samples, ceramics, metals, organic materials, and semiconductors, and are suitable for scientific fields such as fuel cell research, surface analysis, semiconductors and thin film engineering.  

Contact a member of Hiden Analytical today for more information about how SIMS analysis can enhance the depth profiling process or to learn about our SIMS Workstation.