How Automated Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) Is Used?

A number of articles have been written to illustrate how automating scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging can save precious time for both researchers and operators. Scanning electron microscopes are employed by a variety of operators for a varied range of purposes, and this article will demonstrate one such use in the field: the performance of an automated Laser-Induced Damage Threshold test (LIDT).

Automated SEM Imaging: Accelerating a Laser-Induced Damage Threshold Test

Optical components such as mirrors, optical coatings, or fibers can incur damage through exposure to powerful laser light. In order to select the most appropriate optical components, it is vital to determine what dose of energy results in damage to a component, or makes enduring changes its optical characteristics.

BSD SEM image of laser-induced damage on an optical coating

Figure 1: BSD SEM image of laser-induced damage on an optical coating.

To figure out the precise impact of particular doses of energy, a Laser Induced Damage Threshold test can be carried out. In this test, the optical component is exposed to varying strengths and wavelengths of laser light in a grid pattern.

Following exposure to laser light, various types of optical microscopes and scanning electron microscopes are used to scrutinize the component for damage. It is necessary to examine every point on the grid, which can amount to hundreds of individual points.

Carrying this test out manually would be a time-consuming process, and thus, in such instances, automated microscopy can offer a solution which helps to save precious time.

How to Acquire SEM Images Automatically

Using a programmable interface, a script is produced to automatically obtain images for each point through the use of SEM. The script uploads a list of coordinates which is then produced by the laser. Next, the user calibrates the stage on two points, before the scrip then goes on to image each point at a designated magnification.

User interface of the LIDT scan script: the small red and green dots represent points where the optical coating was exposed to laser light.

Figure 2: User interface of the LIDT scan script: the small red and green dots represent points where the optical coating was exposed to laser light.

For ease of inspection, the collated images are all stored in a designated folder. If further inspection is required on a particular point, it is simple to locate that point by clicking on it in the user interface. Through this process, it is possible to maximize time spent on actual analysis, rather than on the gathering of your SEM images.

Automation of this process is an excellent time-saving measure, allowing users to simply click on an image to determine whether damage has occurred.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Phenom-World BV.

For more information on this source, please visit Phenom-World BV.

Ask A Question

Do you have a question you'd like to ask regarding this article?

Leave your feedback
Submit