// 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.