My watch list  

Focused ion beam

Focused ion beam, also known as FIB, is a technique used particularly in the semiconductor and materials science fields for site-specific analysis, deposition, and ablation of materials.

Additional recommended knowledge

The FIB is a scientific instrument that resembles a scanning electron microscope. However, while the SEM uses a focused beam of electrons to image the sample in the chamber, a FIB instead uses a focused beam of gallium ions. Gallium is chosen because it is easy to build a gallium liquid metal ion source (LMIS). In a Gallium LMIS, gallium metal is placed in contact with a tungsten needle and heated. Gallium wets the tungsten, and a huge electric field (greater than 108 volts per centimeter) causes ionization and field emission of the gallium atoms. The FIB can also be incorporated in a system with both electron and ion beam columns, allowing the same feature to be investigated using either of the beams[1] [2].

These ions are then accelerated to an energy of 5-50 keV (kiloelectronvolts), and then focused onto the sample by electrostatic lenses. A modern FIB can deliver tens of nanoamps of current to a sample, or can image the sample with a spot size on the order of a few nanometers.


Unlike an electron microscope, the FIB is inherently destructive to the specimen. When the high-energy gallium ions strike the sample, they will sputter atoms from the surface. Gallium atoms will also be implanted into the top few nanometers of the surface, and the surface will be made amorphous.

Because of the sputtering capability, the FIB is used as a micro-machining tool, to modify or machine materials at the micro- and nanoscale.

A FIB can also be used to deposit material via ion beam induced deposition. FIB-assisted chemical vapor deposition occurs when a gas, such as tungsten carbonyl (W(CO)6) is introduced to the vacuum chamber and allowed to chemisorb onto the sample. By scanning an area with the beam, the precursor gas will be decomposed into volatile and non-volatile components; the non-volatile component, such as tungsten, remains on the surface as a deposition. This is useful, as the deposited metal can be used as a sacrificial layer, to protect the underlying sample from the destructive sputtering of the beam. Other materials such as platinum can also be deposited.

FIB is often used in the semiconductor industry to patch or modify an existing semiconductor device. For example, in an integrated circuit, the gallium beam could be used to cut unwanted electrical connections, or to deposit conductive material in order to make a connection.


The FIB is also commonly used to prepare samples for the transmission electron microscope. The TEM requires very thin samples, typically ~100 nanometers. Other techniques, such as ion milling or electropolishing can be used to prepare such thin samples. However, the nanometer-scale resolution of the FIB allows the exact thin region to be chosen. This is vital, for example, in integrated circuit failure analysis. If a particular transistor out of several million on a chip is bad, the only tool capable of preparing an electron microscope sample of that single transistor is the FIB.

The drawback to FIB sample preparation is the above-mentioned surface damage and implantation, which produces noticeable effects when using techniques such as high-resolution "lattice imaging" TEM or electron energy loss spectroscopy. This damaged layer can be removed by further milling with a low voltage argon ion beam after completion of the FIB process [3][4].

FIB preparation can also be used with cryogenically frozen samples in a suitably equipped instrument, allowing cross sectional analysis of samples containing liquids or fats, such as biological samples, pharmaceuticals, foams, inks, and food products [5]


[6] [7]

  1. ^ FEI DualBeam systems
  2. ^ Carl Zeiss CrossBeam series
  3. ^ A Three Beam Approach to TEM Preparation Using In-situ Low Voltage Argon Ion Final Milling in a FIB-SEM Instrument E L Principe, P Gnauck and P Hoffrogge, Microscopy and Microanalysis (2005), 11: 830-831 Cambridge University Press doi:10.1017/S1431927605502460
  4. ^ "Triple-Beam" Focussed-Ion-Beam Microscope EPSRC grant EP/F019564/1
  5. ^ Unique Imaging of Soft Materials Using Cryo-SDB
  6. ^ Orsay Physics [1]
  7. ^ Triple Beam Focused Ion Beam with SEM and EDX [2]
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Focused_ion_beam". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE