University of Cambridge > > CAPE Advanced Technology Lecture Series > Surface analysis – elemental identification & quantification – challenges and opportunities

Surface analysis – elemental identification & quantification – challenges and opportunities

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In addition to nanostructure, the properties (from mechanical to electrical and chemical) of functional materials directly depend on their chemistry as well as elemental (and impurity) compositions and distributions. Thus, a precise compositional analysis is essential for proper research. However, achieving accurate elemental identification and quantification by most conventional analytical techniques is typically challenging, in particular, for materials containing light elements or multicomponents with close atomic numbers. several analytical methods are available, including chemistry- and physics-based techniques. Chemistry-based analytical techniques such as potentiometric titrations, polarimetry, spectrophotometry, ion chromatography, gas chromatography, and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry are time-consuming, highly prone to interferences, and require derivatisation, complex analytical procedures, and several dilutions of samples. More popular are the physics-based techniques such as energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and ion beam analysis (IBA) techniques that are fast and more user friendly. In this talk, I will firstly focus on widely-used XPS and highlight its strengths and most importantly challenges, which cause systematic errors in unfortunately more than 30% of peer-reviewed publications. Then, advanced non-destructive analytical techniques that can detect all elements will be introduced, and finally, I will propose the best practice for accurately determining the chemical compositions of a broad range of complex materials, especially functional oxides.


Babak holds a PhD in Thin Film Physics at the Physics Department of Linköping University in Sweden and is currently a postdoc in Thin Film Electronics at Electrical Engineering Division, in Cambridge. His research focuses on the growth of various thin films with complex nanostructures by magnetron sputtering and in particular HiPIMS for energy efficient memory and data storage applications. He also works with characterization tools such as XPS , ion beam analysis techniques (ERDA, RBS , and PIXE ), TEM , FIB, AFM , X-rays techniques, and in-situ ion mass spectrometry. Babak has been involved in several projects dealing with thin films in collaboration with partners from both academia and industry. Perhaps, his most important industry collaboration was in JUICE project with European Space Agency that he successfully sputter-deposited thin films on large spheres, which are parts of Langmuir probes for exploring atmosphere around Jupiter icy moons.


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