Dual-beam Focused Ion Beam-Scanning Electron Microscopy (FIB-SEM) Services

Sometimes features or areas of interest on a sample cannot be accessed or characterized fully via standard top-down analytical techniques on the tool. In these cases, a specialized suite of instruments outfitted with an additional focused ion beam source is necessary.

FIB-SEM tools utilize a high-energy, narrowly focused beam of charged atoms (most commonly Ga) to ablate the surface of a sample, facilitating precision removal of material where applied. This allows our technicians to perform single or serial cross-sectional analyses, SEM tomography (3D reconstruction of a sample from sliced views of the sample), lift-out procedures to prepare samples for TEM analysis, lithography and other in situ sample manipulations.

The technique is ubiquitous in applications throughout the fields of device engineering, semiconductor development, and electronics, and is growing in use in other areas of research from fabrics to biological samples.

Application Areas for FIB-SEM:

  • Preparation of cross-sections of a sample at specific locations for HR-SEM / TEM analysis
  • Electron lithography and ion welding of metal contacts on micro- and nano-scale devices

Uses & Limitations of FIB-SEM

  • What it’s great for:
    • Precision manipulation of a sample in situ with high-resolution imaging capabilities
    • Imaging multi-modal, sub-surface, and 3D information
    • Cutting, cleaving, trenching, and exposing different faces and facets of a sample for imaging and analysis
  • Limitations:
    • Sample damage is possible due to high-energy and current of applied ion species;
    • Insulating materials and substrates cannot generally be milled as cleanly as conductive materials, despite charge neutralization procedures.


Cross-section of display (FIB-SEM): this cross-section reveals the structure of pixels in fine detail.

Cross-section of a coating artifact reveals pockets of air underlie the deformed feature.

Instruments we use for FIB-SEM:

FEI Helios 600i, 650, 660, 660i: In addition to its outstanding array of features for imaging and analysis, the FEI Helios family of SEMs are the industry leader in FIB-SEM applications.Each of these tools is equipped with FEI’s patented omniprobe and micro-manipulator systems for outstanding control of cleaved materials within the tool. Multiple gas-injection species are available for ion deposition, including Platinum, XeF2, Silicon, and Carbon. Furthermore, the FIB itself can be manipulated precisely with a 16-bit patterning system applicable upon a 5-axes piezo-driven eucentric stage. An electron flood source is included to neutralize charge build-up and to assist in precise milling of insulating materials, and a specialized Quorum cryo-transfer system is available to treat more beam-sensitive materials (organic, biological, polymer, etc).