Surface Science

Advanced ion energy loss models: Applications to subnanometric resolution elemental depth profiling

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In principle, the depth distribution of the different chemical elements near the surface of solids can be determined quantitatively and absolutely with subnanometric depth resolution using medium energy ion scattering (MEIS), which is a refined version of Rutherford backscattering spectrometry (RBS). The energy resolution of current MEIS analyzers reveals spectral features that cannot be resolved using conventional RBS detectors. Thus, the usual data analysis framework based on a standard Gaussian approximation for the ion energy distribution in the target is applicable to regular RBS, but not generally to MEIS, in particular if one aims at subnanometric depth resolution. The observed asymmetry in the ion energy loss distributions is a direct consequence of the asymmetric character of inelastic energy transfers during individual atomic collisions and of the stochastic character of the resulting energy losses. We propose a model that accounts for the proper statistics of the small energy loss events and for an approximate electronic energy loss distribution during the backscattering event. The validity of this model is discussed and applied to the determination of HfO2 and TiO2 film thicknesses as well as to detect Al2O3 and HfO2 intermixing. This final application case also illustrates the potentialities as well as some inherent limitations of MEIS. The model developed here has been made available to the public in the form of a software for MEIS data analysis. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.