Cross-sectioning using dual beam FIB-SEM

Examine thickness of coatings, or features that are difficult to access

Multiple uses of FIB-SEM

You can create a precise and site-specific cross-section and simultaneously image them without the need to exchange the sample.

You can create cross-sections below 100 nm thickness. In this way, you can examine the thickness of thin films and coatings, or products with small, difficult-to-access features, such as those found in the semiconductor industry and for sub-surface particle identification.

3D volume preparation for a tomography run

Why and when to use FIB-SEM cross-sectioning service?

  • if you have thin films and coatings of almost any type (~ 100 nm to 50 mm thick).
  • ​when you need to prepare the cross-sections at a very precise location on the sample surface. This could be a particle, a crack or void or a specific feature or a failure.
  • when you need to examine features that are small and difficult to access
  • when you need to inspect defects just under the surface.

Is FIB-SEM service what I need?

  • you can use it on any material that can be placed inside the SEM chamber and is vacuum compatible
  • you don’t need to use any grinding and polishing and so you’re less likely to introduce contaminations.
  • there is no mechanical stresses applied to the samples.
Atom probe tip (APT) from an apatite mineral

How it works

You send us your samples with details on where you would like us to perform the cross-section analysis and what you’re looking for.

You’re welcome to observe the process in person (in our Milton Keynes location) or via a web camera, so you can direct us to the right place. We will then send you high-resolution SEM images.


What are the limitations?

Your sample must first and foremost be fit to enter SEM – it must be solid and fit physically inside the SEM chamber. The maximum horizontal 100mm and vertical dimensions are 100mm and 30mm respectively. If it’s larger, it can be cut to smaller pieces, we can do this in-house for you.

Your sample should preferably be flat, stable under the vacuum and conductive as well. Insulating sample can be imaged by applying a thin (< 20 nm) conductive coating of either carbon, gold or platinum.

What is the cost of the service?

This will largely depend on the number of cross-sections you wish to have. As an idea, a simple cross-section per sample will be £700.

How long does it take?

We aim to perform the analysis between 2 to 3 weeks after receiving the samples. However, we can also work to accommodate your samples to fit your deadline.

Do you require a FIB-SEM cross-sectioning service?

Whether you need to examine the thickness of coatings and films, or explore features that are difficult to access, our experts are here to help.