J. Österreicher, F. Grabner, A. Schiffl, S. Schwarz, G. Bourret:
"Information depth in backscattered electron microscopy of nanoparticles within a solid matrix";
Measuring the dimensions and number density of nanoparticles dispersed in a solid matrix is usually accomplished
via transmission electron microscopy (TEM) which suffers from high cost, low throughput, and small
analytical volume. In comparison, scanning backscattered electron microscopy is inexpensive, requires little
sample preparation, and allows for the analysis of large sample areas. However, the information depth is usually
not known precisely and depends on several factors such as the composition of the nanoparticles and the matrix
as well as the size of the nanoparticles, hindering the reconstruction of the actual size distribution and threedimensional
number density. Here we present a method to estimate the information depth for spherical nanoparticles
of different sizes in order to accurately determine size distribution and number density. The approach is
based on Monte Carlo simulation of electron trajectories in the material and analysis of the obtained backscattered
electron signal-to-noise-ratio. Our experimental results are compared to those obtained via TEM and
good agreement is demonstrated; this shows that TEM can be replaced by scanning electron microscopy for
studying nanocomposites in many cases.
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