Gaseous secondary electron detection and cascade amplification in the environmental scanning electron microscope

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This thesis quantitatively investigates gaseous electron-ion recombination in an environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) at a transient level by utilizing the dark shadows/streaks seen in gaseous secondary electron detector (GSED) images immediately after a region of enhanced secondary electron (SE) emission is encountered by a scanning electron beam. The investigation firstly derives a theoretical model of gaseous electron-ion recombination that takes into consideration transients caused by the time constant of the GSED electronics and external circuitry used to generate images. Experimental data of pixel intensity versus time of the streaks is then simulated using the model enabling the relative magnitudes of (i) ionization and recombination rates, (ii) recombination coefficients, and (iii) electron drift velocities, as well as absolute values of the total time constant of the detection system, to be determined as a function of microscope operating parameters. Results reveal the exact dependence that the effects of SE-ion recombination on signal formation have on reduced electric field intensity and time in ESEM. Furthermore, the model implicitly demonstrates that signal loss as a consequence of field retardation due to ion space charges, although obviously present, is not the foremost phenomenon causing streaking in images, as previously thought. Following that the generation and detection of gaseous scintillation and electro- luminescence produced via electron-gas molecule excitation reactions in ESEM is investigated. Here a novel gaseous scintillation detection (GSD) system is developed to efficiently detect photons produced. Images acquired using GSD are compared to those obtained using conventional GSED detection, and demonstrate that images rich in SE contrast can be achieved using such systems. A theoretical model is developed that describes the generation of photon signals by cascading SEs, high energy backscattered electrons (BSEs) and primary beam electrons (PEs). Photon amplification, or the total number of photons produced per sample emissive electron, is then investigated, and compared to conventional electronic amplification, over a wide range of microscope operating parameters, imaging gases and photon collection geometries. The main findings of the investigation revealed that detected electroluminescent signals exhibit larger SE signal-to-background levels than that of conventional electronic signals detected via GSED. Also, dragging the electron cascade towards the light pipe assemblage of GSD systems, or electrostatic focusing, dramatically increases photon collection efficiencies. The attainment of such an improvement being a direct consequence of increasing the `effective' solid angle for photon collection. Finally, in attempt to characterize the scintillating wavelengths arising from sample emissive SEs, PEs, BSEs, and their respective cascaded electrons, such that future photon filtering techniques can be employed to extract nominated GSD imaging signals, the emission spectra of commonly utilized electroluminescent gases in ESEM, such as argon (Ar) and nitrogen (N2), were collected and investigated. Spectra of Ar and N2 reveal several major emission lines that occur in the ultraviolet (UV) to near infrared (NIR) regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The major photon emissions discovered in Ar are attributed to occur via atomic de-excitation transitions of neutral Ar (Ar I), whilst for N2, major emissions are attributed to be a consequence of second positive band vibrational de-excitation reactions. Major wavelength intensity versus gas pressure data, for both Ar and N2, illustrate that wavelength intensities increase with decreasing pressure. This phenomenon strongly suggesting that quenching effects and reductions in excitation mean free paths increase with imaging gas pressure.
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