Carl Zeiss’s “breakthrough” Orion microscope uses Helium ion beam for ultra-high resolution

August 9, 2007 — Carl Zeiss SMT , provider of electron- and ion-beam imaging and analysis tools, says that its introduction of the Orion Helium ion microscope marks the beginning of a new era in microscopy. The microscope’s technology is based on proprietary intellectual property developed by ALIS Corp., which Carl Zeiss acquired in 2006.

“We are presenting a breakthrough technology in microscopy, an advancement that will provide our customers with the power to discover things they have never seen before, and to solve problems never before solvable,” says Dirk Stenkamp, member of the Carl Zeiss SMT executive board.

According to Carl Zeiss, the new microscope can provide images of such high resolution, surface information, and material contrast, that no other microscopy instrument available today can rival it.

The Orion scanning ion microscope uses a beam of Helium ions — rather than electrons typically used in scanning electron microscopes (SEM) — to image and measure. Because Helium ions can be focused into a substantially smaller probe size and provide a much smaller sample interaction compared to electrons, the Orion can generate higher resolution images with greatly improved material contrast at a substantially extended depth of focus.

According to Bill Ward, principal inventor of the Helium Ion Microscope (as well as founder of ALIS Corp. and Chief Technologist at Carl Zeiss SMT), “Because the Orion ion beam appears to be emanating from a region which is less than an angstrom in size, the resulting ion beam has a remarkable brightness. This makes it possible to focus the beam into a very small probe size. Ultimately, this microscope will enable further scientific advancements in a large number of fields, such as semiconductor process control, life science applications and materials analysis.”

Carl Zeiss recently shipped the first Orion to the U.S. National Institute for Science and Technology’s (NIST) Advanced Measurement Laboratory, one of the most technically advanced laboratory facilities in the world.


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