Gaseous scintillation detection and amplification in variable pressure scanning electron microscopy

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Journal Article
Journal of Applied Physics, 2006, 100 (7)
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This work investigates the generation and detection of gaseous scintillation signals produced in variable pressure scanning electron microscopy through electron-gas molecule excitation reactions. Here a gaseous scintillation detection (GSD) system is developed to efficiently detect photons produced via excitation reactions in electron cascades. Images acquired using GSD are compared to those obtained using conventional gaseous secondary electron detection (GSED) and demonstrate that images rich in secondary electron (SE) contrast can be achieved using the gaseous scintillation signal. A theoretical model, based on existing Townsend theories, is developed. It describes the production and amplification of photon signals generated by cascading SEs, high energy backscattered electrons, and primary beam electrons. Photon amplification (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, scintillating imaging gases, and photon collection geometries. These studies revealed that argon gas exhibited the largest GSD gain, followed by nitrogen then water vapor, exactly opposite to the trend observed for electron amplification data. It was also found that detected scintillation signals exhibit larger SE signal-to-background levels compared to those of conventional electronic signals detected via GSED. Finally, dragging the electron cascade towards the light pipe assemblage of GSD systems, or electrostatic focusing, dramatically increases the collection efficiency of photons. © 2006 American Institute of Physics.
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