FEI tips extreme SEM, transition help to STEM

by Sarah Fister Gale, contributing editor, Solid State Technology

FEI Co. is debuting a new line of SEM tools designed to give researchers a sharper picture of sub-nanometer surface detail than with a scanning electron microscope (SEM), and extend this capability to future technology nodes.

The Magellan family of extreme high-resolution (XHR) SEMs aims to extend sub-nm resolution to applications that were previously impossible or impractical with conventional SEM, STEM, or focused ion beam (FIB) systems. The company claims it can provide views of critical details of complex 3D structures at many different angles with <1nm resolution. It also requires very low beam energies (<1kV to 30kV) so as to avoid distortions otherwise caused by higher-energy beam penetration into the material below.

Part of FEI’s message with the Magellan XHR SEMs is to help researchers balance the need for greater resolution images of smaller features with the time and financial cost of investing in STEM, explained Todd Templeton, product marketing manager for FEI. “Researchers are looking for ways to extend the lifetime of SEM into the next one to two node generations to put off capital investments,” he said. “XHR SEMs extend sub-nanometer resolution to applications that were impossible or impractical with SEMs, TEMs or FIBs.” He listed potential applications including generating high-resolution, surface-sensitive images of carbon nanotubes, nanowires, and catalysts.

The Magellan XHR SEMs come in two flavors: the 400 for scientific research, and the 400L for semiconductor labs. The semiconductor lab model includes a load-lock feature to speed up sample throughput, and a retractable solid state backscatter electron detector and S2 compliance kit. An integrated plasma cleaner and liquid nitrogen cold trap ensure sample cleanliness.

Nanotubes imaged at 200V at 10k×, 20k×, 40k×, and 600k× magnification. (Images courtesy of McGill U. and FEI)

Faster throughput for TEM

Meanwhile, FEI also is introducing a new suite of tightly integrated connectivity solutions for its focused ion beam and electron microscope tools, to smooth a SEM-to-STEM transition and improve the speed and reliability of high-resolution imaging and analysis.

The bundling of existing technologies automates and accelerates preparation of ultrathin samples required for TEM and STEM, resulting in reduction times from days to hours, and pushing closer to the throughput of SEMs — which translates directly to cost-of-ownership, according to Rob Krueger, technology manager of FEI’s electronics division. “It will have a dramatic impact on iterative, analysis intensive activities, such as the development of new processes and products and recovery from yield excursions,” he said. “Speeding up the process makes labs more efficient.” — S.F.G.


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