Glow Discharge Optical Emission Spectroscopy

Glow discharge optical emission spectroscopy is the ideal technique to use if you need an elemental composition depth profile of your sample up to a depth of 150 µm.  GDOES can be used to determine the in-depth composition on a range of hard materials from metals to insulators.

How GDOES works – your sample is placed into a radio frequency argon plasma to sputter remove atoms from the sample surface.  These atoms are then excited by collision with electrons in the plasma and emit light when they return to the ground state.  The energy of the emitted light is defined by the sputtered element.  A plot of time in the plasma vs emitted light can be converted to depth vs. concentration.

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Instrumentation Available

Key Attributes

  • Elements detected H-U (depending on instrument configuration)
  • Detection limit: ppm
  • Depth profiling from few hundred nm to 150 µm


  • Depth profiling
  • Large sputter depths
  • Analysis of insulators and conductors
  • High detection sensitivity
  • Quantification straight forward with appropriate standards
  • nm depth resolution


  • Destructive
  • Detectable elements limited by instrument configuration
  • No imaging
  • Appropriate standards required
  • Soft material samples (polymers, biologicals) are easily damaged, limiting usefulness
  • No molecular information
  • Samples must be flat
  • Samples need to be a minimum of 1 x 1 cm
  • Samples must be vacuum compatible


  • Depth profiling of metals, semiconductors and insulators
  • Bulk composition measurements of hard materials

Additional Reading