// Scanning Electron Microscopy

Scanning electron microscopes (SEM) are excellent tools for examining a wide range of material properties at the microscopic level, all the way down to structures measuring just a few nanometers. A Zeiss Crossbeam 550 provides high-resolution images at ZSW. This instrument has a field emission cathode that enables imaging of the surface morphology in the micro- to nanometer range. Less conductive samples are difficult to capture in images, but the Crossbeam’s excellent electron optics accomplish this even at low acceleration voltages. It also features a FIB (Focused Ion Beam) unit that can serve to ablate the sample in a targeted manner using a focused Ga ion beam and to deposit specific materials – typically Pt or C. Several possibilities for detecting images are available. An EDX (energy dispersive x-ray microanalysis) system from Oxford Instruments analyzes the characteristic x-rays excited by the electron beam to enable a clear determination of chemical components. This detector obtains high-resolution images of a sample’s elemental composition. Another special feature of the system is the integrated cryogenic stage, which allows the sample to be cooled down to -160°C with nitrogen to prevent the electron or ion beam from affecting the sample.

Areas of Application

  • Morphology and chemical composition of surface coatings
  • Layer thickness and layer structure
  • Grain structure, grain sizes and fracture surfaces of metals, semiconductors, ceramics
  • Lateral element distribution images
  • Size and type of inclusions, precipitates and foreign phases in thin films
  • Shape, size and chemical composition of particles, abrasive particles, residues, coatings
  • Porosity of membranes
  • Causes of damage (abrasion, corrosion, melting, welding, mechanical failure)
  • Local micrometer-scale production of cross-sections and lamellas using FIB


  • Crossbeam 550, a field emission scanning electron microscope from Carl Zeiss Microscopy GmbH
  • Ultim Max, a 100 mm2 EDX detector from Oxford Instruments
  • Ion-sculptor FIB unit from Zeiss
  • Quorum PP3005 SEMCool cryo state



Dr. Theresa Magorian Friedlmeier
+49 711 78 70-293
The Zeiss Crossbeam 550, a FIB-SEM instrument at ZSW.
A look inside the chamber at the diverse sensors and add-on units.
An REM image of a cadmium sulfide buffer layer on a CIGS absorber.

This Website uses cookies and third-party content

On this website, we use cookies which are absolutely necessary for displaying its content. If you click on “Accept cookies chosen”, only these necessary cookies are used. Other cookies and content by third parties (such as YouTube videos or maps by Google Maps) are only set with your consent by choosing “Accept all cookies”. For further information, please refer to our data protection policy where you can withdraw your consent at any time.