Cross-sectional Transmission Electron Microscopy

Cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy (Cross-sectional TEM), is a method for achieving high resolution images from cross-sections of larger materials. Studied area can be selected from a larger particle and the area of interest is imaged with TEM. This method combines sample preparation techniques and TEM. The method is widely used in material science and nanotechnology.

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Cross sectional TEM is just like regular TEM, but the images are taken from cross-sections of the imaged materials.

Transmission electron microscope (TEM) uses high energy electron beam to form high resolution images. TEM produces highly detailed images of internal structures of samples less than 100 nm thick. Cross-sectional TEM  is widely used in material science, cell biology and nanotechnology to image internal structures of materials that are otherwise too large for TEM.

In TEM the sample thickness must be 100 nm or less. Preparation procedures for such thin samples can be complex. Sometimes the desired area for imagining is inside the sample. For example, when the boundary between layers in thin film materials is in the focus.

There are two main methods to obtain a cross-sectional sample for TEM.

Microtome is a machine that uses blades to slice the sample to 60-100nm thick chips. The blades are made of glass, steel or diamond. Microtome can be used to prepare samples from bones, minerals, and polymeric materials such as plastics. Sometimes, samples are molded in epoxy before microtomy.

Focused ion beam (FIB) is a nano-machining technique that uses high currency ion beam to mill the cross-sectional sample out from a larger object. FIB uses a dual ion beam to carve peace of the original sample. This piece is removed with a carrier and mounted for thinning. The Sample is then thinned with an ion beam to match the sample requirements. It can be used in many cases, for example when the thickness and the uniformity of a thin film coating needs to be determined.

Suitable sample matrices

  • Materials that are too large for normal TEM.
  • Thin films
  • Semiconductors
  • Metals
  • Bone
  • Tissues

Ideal uses of cross-sectional TEM

  • Cross sectional imaging of semiconductors.
  • Imaging of thin film layers.
  • High resolution imaging for failure analysis.
  • Nanoparticle characterisation.
  • Semiconductor research.
  • Fault finding in material studies.
  • Multilayer thin material analyses.
  • Cell imaging in bone research.

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Frequently asked questions

What is Cross-sectional TEM commonly used for?

It is used when the area of interest is inside of the sample. In some cases the sample is cutted from a certain point or it must be ion-milled from the middle of the sample.

TEM produces high resolution 2D-images, from nanoparticles.

What are the limitations of Cross-sectional TEM?

Some materials can not handle the stress from mechanical impact or ionic radiation.

TEM can not produce 3D-image.

What kind of samples can be analyzed with Cross-sectional TEM?

Very wide range of materials can be examined with cross-sectional TEM. High resolution images can be produced from rocks and minerals, bones, metals, thin films and semiconductor materials.

What is Measurlabs?

Measurlabs offers a variety of laboratory analyses for product developers and quality managers. We perform some of the analyses in our own lab, but mostly we outsource them to carefully selected partner laboratories. This way we can send each sample to the lab that is best suited for the purpose, and offer high-quality analyses with more than a thousand different methods to our clients.

How does the service work?

When you contact us through our contact form or by email, one of our specialists will take ownership of your case and answer your query. You get an offer with all the necessary details about the analysis, and can send your samples to the indicated address. We will then take care of sending your samples to the correct laboratories and write a clear report on the results for you.

How do I send my samples?

Samples are usually delivered to our laboratory via courier. Contact us for further details before sending samples.

With cross-sectional TEM it is possible to select the pictured area with nanometric precision for high quality TEM images. This method allows picturing inner parts of your sample. Measur can make high resolution images from your sample. Source material can be from minerals to thin film materials.