Transient analysis of gaseous electron-ion recombination in the environmental scanning electron microscope

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Journal Article
Journal of Microscopy, 2006, 221 (3), pp. 183 - 202
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Most of the work carried out in relation to contrast mechanisms and signal formation in an environmental scanning electron microscope has yet to consider the time dependent aspects of image generation at a quantitative level. This paper quantitatively describes gaseous electron-ion recombination (also known as 'signal scavenging') in an environmental scanning electron microscope at a transient level by utilizing the dark shadows/streaks seen in gaseous secondary electron detector images of alumina (Al2O3) immediately after a region of enhanced secondary electron 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 gaseous secondary electron detector electronics and external circuitry used to generate images. Experimental data of pixel intensity versus time of the streaks are 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 gaseous secondary electron detection system and external circuitry, to be determined as a function of microscope operating parameters such as gaseous secondary electron detector bias, sample-electrode separation, imaging gas pressure, and scan speed. The results revealed, for the first time, the exact dependence that the effects of secondary electron-ion recombination on signal formation has on reduced electric field and time in an environmental scanning electron microscope. Furthermore, the model implicitly demonstrated 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. © 2006 The Royal Microscopical Society.
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