Analytical microscopy

In addition to fundamental and strategic basic research, imo-imomec also offers scientific services in collaboration with the industry. For these scientific services imo-imomec focusses on four pillars:analytical chemistry, analytical microscopy, device physics & engineering, and packaging technology.

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Meet AMS

The Analytical & Microscopical Services (AMS) expert group belongs to the Materials Physics research group (IMOMAF) and has built up expertise in the field of microstructural analysis for more than 40 years. AMS plays a prominent role for the researchers within imo-imomec in the development of new material systems. In addition, AMS carries out applied and contract research on a daily basis in cooperation with industry. Thanks to the in-house preparation lab, even the most challenging analyses are no problem and the AMS group can deliver quickly.

Typical case studies include the preparation and microscopic study of cross sections through very specific structures (e.g. via's, solder joints, discolourations and contaminations), layer thickness measurements, failure analysis, comparative studies, very local element analyses, non-destructive X-ray or ultrasonic microscopic studies, phase determination of crystalline materials and corrosion studies. These analyses can be applied to a wide range of application fields.

In addition to the techniques listed in the left-hand menu, the group also has extensive expertise in XPS and AFM, among others.
Do you have a specific question or would you like to receive a quotation? Our business developer will be happy to help you.

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Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) is mainly used when optical microscopy is insufficient. An SEM allows a significantly higher resolution in the order of sub-nanometer combined with a better depth of field. Moreover, an SEM analysis provides additional information on the composition and structure of the sample.

With SEM, an extremely fine electron beam is rapidly moved back and forth across the sample. The interaction of the electron beam with the sample releases various signals. These signals are detected and used by software to form a pixel-by-pixel image of the sample.


The various signals released during an SEM analysis provide very different information about the specimen: topographic/morphological contrast, compositional contrast, very local element analysis and crystallographic information by electron diffraction. This enables us to perform subsequent analyses for a wide range of application areas:

  • Microstructural study on surface and/or cross sections
  • Critical dimensions on surface and/or cross sections
  • Contamination analysis
  • Corrosion analysis
  • Failure analysis
  • Particle Analysis
  • ...


SEM analyses can be performed on a wide range of materials with only two limitations in practice. Firstly, the materials have to be vacuum-compatible, and secondly, the dimensions for an SEM analysis are limited to a maximum of 10 x 10 x 5 cm³ (w x d x h). However, additional preparation steps are often needed to answer a research question. These include cross-sectioning (including mechanical and/or ion polishing), etching of grain boundaries, decapsulation of electronic components and evaporation/sputtering of conductive material. We can offer these techniques in-house, a must to guarantee a fast and correct service. Typical examples of samples for SEM analyses are:

  • Electronic components
  • Nanopowders
  • Polymers
  • Coatings
  • ...

Key equipment

Zeiss Gemini 450

  • Schottky FEG
  • In-lens detection
  • Beam booster
  • Transfer system
  • STEM imaging
  • Low vacuum capabilities

FEI Quanta 200F

  • Schottky FEG
  • EDX
  • EBSD
  • E-beam lithography
  • Low vacuum capabilities
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Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) is mainly used when optical microscopy and raster electron microscopy (SEM) are insufficient. A TEM allows a significantly higher resolution in the order of a few ångström. TEM analysis, like SEM analysis, can provide additional information on the composition of the sample. Moreover, crystallographic knowledge can be obtained during a TEM analysis.

With TEM, an electron beam falls on an electron-transparent sample (order of magnitude 0.1 µm thick). This causes absorption and diffraction phenomena which give rise to intensity differences observed by the underlying CCD detector. From this information the crystalline or non-crystalline nature and microstructure of the sample can be studied in various imaging modes such as bright field image, dark field image and diffraction mode. The interaction of the beam with the specimen also releases X-rays which give an indication of the local element distribution.


The various signals released during a TEM analysis provide very different information about the specimen: compositional contrast, highly localised element analysis and crystallographic information by electron diffraction. This enables us to perform subsequent analyses for a wide range of application domains:

  • Nanostructural study of solid samples
  • Nanostructural study on free-standing films
  • Study of powders
  • ...


During TEM analysis it is necessary for the sample to be electronically transparent. In practice, this means that the maximum thickness of the sample is approximately 0.1 µm. This condition is almost exclusively fulfilled when nanopowders or thin, free-standing films are to be analysed. Therefore, in contrast to SEM analyses, extensive preparation steps are often required to answer a research question by means of a TEM analysis. Examples are (cryo) microtome cut or ion beam diluted samples. Typical examples of preparations for TEM analysis are:

  • Nanopowders
  • Polymers
  • Coatings
  • ...

Key equipment

FEI Tecnai Spirit Twin

  • Eagle 4k x 4k CCD camera
  • Si(Li) Ametek EDX detector
  • STEM unit
  • Accelerating voltage: 20-120 kV
  • LaB6 filament
  • Specimen holders
  • single and double tilt
  • cryo-transfer
  • heating

Leica Ultracut UCT/EM FCS

  • Microtome cutting
  • Cryo capabilities
  • Glass and diamond knives
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X-ray diffraction

X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) is a non-destructive technique to obtain crystallographic information. This includes phase identification, crystal structure determination, grain size estimation and degree of amorphousness. Combined with a temperature chamber under a controlled atmosphere, research into phase transformations, oxidation reactions, etc. is possible.

In an XRD analysis, X-rays of a certain wavelength are incident on a crystalline material. This causes constructive interference between the diffracted rays for certain angles of incidence. An XRD analysis results in a diffractrogram, which is a fingerprint of the measured material.

Besides an XRD analysis, X-Ray Reflectometry (XRR) analyses can be performed with the same instrument. XRR analyses are used to determine the thickness, roughness and density of a stack of thin crystalline and/or amorphous layers.


The diffractogram obtained from an XRD analysis contains information on the lattice parameters and crystal structures of a crystalline material. The combination with a temperature chamber (30°C to 1000°C) under controlled atmosphere enables in-situ analyses of transformations. This enables us to perform subsequent analyses for a wide range of application areas:

  • Identification of crystalline substances present
  • Determination of preferential orientation thin films
  • Determination of interplanar distributions (stress)
  • Estimation of the average grain size
  • Phase Transformations
  • Oxidation reactions
  • ...


XRD analyses are mainly performed on powders, (thin) films and bulk materials. Air- and moisture-sensitive powders can be measured by means of a capillary.

In XRR analyses, it is important that the thin (<500 nm), crystalline or amorphous layers have a constant thickness, so a controlled production process is required (for example: ALD deposition). In addition, a minimum sample size of 20 x 20 mm² is recommended. Typical examples of samples for XRR analyses are:

  • Semiconductor wafers
  • Solar cells
  • ...

Key equipment

Bruker D8 Discover

  • Cu X-ray source
  • Goebel mirror
  • Holder for capillaries
  • Possibility for XRR measurements
  • Point detector (scintillation) and 1D detector (lynxeye)
  • High temperature chamber in controlled atmosphere (30°C - 1000°C)
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2D & 3D X-ray inspection

X-ray imaging is a non-destructive technique that allows the examination of structures that are not visible at the surface. X-ray imaging takes advantage of the property that X-rays generally penetrate easily through lighter materials and hardly at all through heavier materials. This technique is very similar to medical imaging using an X-ray.

In addition to standard 2D X-ray imaging techniques, imo-imomec also offers laminography (2.5D) and full CT (3D) visualisations.


By means of 2D and 3D X-ray imaging, deeper structures can easily be visualised, especially when they are protected by a plastic shell (as in micro-electronics). This enables us to perform subsequent analyses for a wide range of application areas:

  • Checking of solder joints (for example: opens, shorts, voids, cracks, misalignments)
  • Automatic error detection & calculation (e.g. bumps and voids)
  • Determination of exact position for a cross section
  • Inspection of Medical devices and materials
  • Advanced battery and solar cell topologies
  • Checking of (golden) wirebonds in ICs
  • CAD file comparison of assemblies
  • Inspection of multi-layered PCB's
  • Checking of welded joints
  • Checking of seals
  • ...


2D and 3D X-ray imaging can be performed on a wide range of materials with, in practice, only restrictions on the dimensions (maximum 46 x 41 cm² for 2D imaging) and the weight (up to 20 kg for 2D imaging). The thickness depends on the material; in general, lighter materials are more easily penetrated by X-rays and can therefore be thicker. Typical examples of specimens for X-ray imaging are:

  • Electronic components
  • Printed circuit boards (PCBs)
  • Welded joints
  • Seals
  • Adhesive layers
  • Assemblies
  • ...

Key equipment


  • Movement range: 46 x 41 cm²
  • Maximum detector tilt: ±70°
  • Maximum resolution: 0.6 µm
  • Maximum power: 15 W
  • Accelerating voltage 20-160 kV
  • Tube current 1-1000 µA
  • 2D imaging, 2.5D laminography, and 3D CT capabilities
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Scanning acoustic microscopy

Scanning acoustic microscopy (SAM) uses ultrasound waves to create an image of the sample. SAM is mainly used to image deeper structures and detect delamination in all kinds of materials.

A SAM emits an ultrasonic sound wave towards the sample. When the sound wave encounters a transition between two different materials, part of the sound wave is reflected. This reflected wave is detected by the SAM transducer. In case the sound wave encounters a layer of air (delamination), total reflection of the wave will occur combined with a phase reversal of the signal.


By means of a SAM analysis, both deeper-lying structures and delamination can be visualised. This enables us to carry out subsequent analyses for a wide range of application areas:

  • Detection of cracks in dies
  • Detection of delaminations
  • Detection of cavities
  • ...


SAM analyses can be performed on a wide range of materials with only a few limitations in practice. During a SAM analysis, the sample is immersed in water, therefore water must not have any effect on the sample under investigation. In addition, a flat surface is required to limit the scattering of sound waves. Finally, samples up to 40 x 40 x 4 cm³ can be measured. Typical examples of specimens for SAM analyses are:

  • Adhesive layers and flex joints
  • Electronic components
  • ...

Key equipment

PVA Tepla Sam 300

  • Movement area: 30 x 30 cm²
  • Transducers: 15, 25, 30, 80, 180 and 230 MHz


dr. Jorne Carolus

Wetenschapspark 1, 3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium
Business Developer

Materials physics & engineering

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Wetenschapspark 1,3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium
Research institute