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Published: 15 November 2016

Academic invited to write ‘Tutorial Review’ on Ion Beam Analysis

A review that highlights why Ion Beam Analysis is a valuable tool for analysts needing to obtain elemental depth profiles of thin films has been published as the lead article in the Royal Society of Chemistry publication Analyst in November.

The review underlines the relevance of Ion Beam Analysis (IBA) techniques to current high impact research being conducted in many different areas of thin film technology,  that is,  those applications with active surface layers around a micron thick (and frequently much thinner).

Lead author Professor Chris Jeynes of Surrey’s Ion Beam Centre (IBC), in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (with co-author Dr Julien Colaux), was asked to submit the ‘Tutorial Review’ by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in order to inform the wider analytical community of the latest developments in this field. Analyst is the flagship analytical chemistry journal of the RSC.

Thin film technology is ubiquitous in industry today, and an understanding of how thin film composition varies with depth is essential to technologies such as semiconductor devices, battery technology, and various sorts of coatings including optical or memory (magnetic) devices. IBA enables solutions in fields from computers to cancer drug delivery and from solar energy capture to art conservation.

Surrey’s IBC is a world leader in ion implantation research and uses a combination of techniques including Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry (RBS) – which allows the accurate counting of tiny numbers of atoms and has been demonstrated to be a ‘primary direct reference method’ (a method that underpins all accurate measurement). 

Bringing together research from major journals, the review highlights the significant advances in IBA in recent years. It demonstrates that ‘accurate RBS’ gives the best traceable accuracy available for the non-destructive, model-free analysis of thin films, and goes on to show the wide usefulness of the more general IBA method.

While there are many other analytical techniques for thin films, RBS now offers the highest quantitative accuracy for a non-destructive model-free analysis. The review also points out that IBA is a better solution in some important cases than current alternatives, and is also used as a valuable complementary technique in many others.

Professor Jeynes explains: “The main advantage of IBA is that it is fully quantitative. If you really don’t know what your sample is and need to be sure, then you should start with IBA. In recent years there have been a number of major developments that have dramatically increased the power and applicability of the technique.

“The fact that this review was invited by the RSC, and featured on the front cover of Analyst, is a very significant endorsement from the UK analytical community.”

The paper ‘Thin film depth profiling by ion beam analysis’ was published in Analyst volume 141:21 on 7 November 2016.

Read an  article by Professor Jeynes on ‘Accurate RBS’ in The Conversation.

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