Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS)

Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) is typically installed on an electron beam based technique like Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (STEM).

EDS, when combined with other electron microscopy instruments provides nanometer scale elemental analysis and imaging.

How EDS works – an electron beam impacts the sample resulting in the production of x-rays characteristic of the elements present. EDS is typically used to determine elemental composition of the sample bulk and can also be used for elemental mapping, line scans or individual point analysis of the sample surface.

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Instrumentation Available

Key Attributes

  • Signal Detected: X-rays
  • Elements Detected: B-U
  • Detection Limit: 0.1-1 at%
  • Information Depth: 0.5-3 µm (for SEM-EDS), n/a for TEM-EDS
  • Elemental mapping
  • Lateral Resolution: 1-2nm for STEM-EDS,  >=0.3 µm for SEM EDS


  • Good for initial assessment of sample composition
  • Easy to use, quick and available widely
  • Quantitative for polished, uniform and flat samples


  • Generally only qualitative or semi-quantitative analysis is possible
  • Samples must be vacuum compatible
  • Potential for beam damage of soft materials
  • More difficult to analyze insulating samples
  • Lateral resolution typically 1 µm
  • Low energy resolution makes it difficult to accurately quantify of elementally complex samples


  • Compositional mapping of samples
  • Elemental identification of particulates
  • Quick assesment of sample composition

Additional Reading