Focused Ion Beam/Scanning Electron Microscope

A finely focused ion beam (FIB) can be used to either remove or deposit materials.  When an FIB is mounted on a high resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM) that instrument is typically referred to as Dual Beam FIB (DB-FIB).   A DB-FIB can be used to cross section materials and analyze them using SEM/EDS.  DB-FIB is also capable of removing precisely targeted cross sectional areas for subsequent TEM analysis.

How DB-FIB works – a highly focused ion beam (typically gallium or xenon) is generated an focused onto the sample.  The ion beam removes material from the sample.  The ion beam may also be used to decompose a gas that will deposit material onto the sample.  A scanning electron microscope is used to image the sample.

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Instrumentation Available

Key Attributes

  • Signals Detected: Electrons, secondary ions, X-rays, light (Cathodoluminescence)
  • Imaging/Mapping: Yes
  • Lateral Resolution/Probe Size: 7nm (ion beam); 20nm (electron beam)
  • Targeted deposition and removal of material


  • Precision milling of precise physical locations
  • Rapid preparation of location specific TEM samples
  • Rapid cross-section creation and viewing
  • Generate simple or complex 3D patterns using ion beam milling and deposition
  • Deposits various materials (e.g. Pt, W, C) in precisely targeted areas


  • Useful sample size is (<500 um) due to milling speed
  • Ion beam may damage soft materials
  • Sample must be vacuum compatible
  • Destructive
  • Imaging may spoil subsequent analyses
  • Ion beam may contaminate sample
  • Ion beam damage may limit image resolution


  • High resolution cross-section images of small, hard-to-access sample features
  • Micro sampling via in-situ liftout
  • Preparation of precise cross sections for TEM/STEM analysis of sub-micron features
  • Nanosurgery on electrical devices
  • Preparation of complex 3D structures

Additional Reading