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X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS/ESCA)


This technique is based on the Photoelectric Effect. When a material is irradiated with x-rays, photoelectrons are subsequently ejected from atoms in the near surface. The kinetic energy of an emitted photoelectron is equal to the difference between the photon energy, and the binding energy of the electron (K.E. = hν - B.E.). The technique is inherently surface sensitive because the x-ray energy is low (<1,500 eV). The majority of the signal detected originates from the outer 1-10 nm of a sample. The spectra contain information about the elemental composition, concentrations and chemical environments (i.e. oxidation states) of surface and near surface atoms. Greater depths (up to a few microns) can be probed by coupling the technique with ion milling. Quantitative chemical state imaging is possible with some samples. The analyses are non-destructive for many, but not all materials.

What we offer

We offer periodic, free user group meetings on special topics on XPS.  If you would like to be kept informed of these meetings, please email Jeff Shallenberger ( or Vince Bojan (

  • surface sensitive (top 1-10 nm)
  • semi-quantitative without standards
  • elemental analysis
  • chemical state information available for many elements
  • in-depth compositional information available via Ar ion beam depth profiling
  • chemical state imaging with a lateral resolution of 10-20 microns
  • thin-films, powders, fibers, and bulk materials can be analyzed
  • sample cooling and heating from -100℃ to 500℃
Sample Requirements
  • any vacuum compatible solid (thin films, powders, fibers, bulk materials)
  • size (< 50 mm length X 50 mm width X 13 mm height)

Samples must be ultra-high vacuum compatible. Contact Jeff or Vince to discuss this requirement. Elements of interest must be at a concentration of approximately 0.1-1 atomic percent or greater with the information depth. Sample thickness is limited to about 13 mm or less.


Physical Electronics VersaProbe II

Typical Applications

2D Materials
Organic Coatings and Films
  • surface functionality
  • surface modification
  • molecular orientation
  • adhesion studies
  • surface segregation
  • failure analysis
  • metallized layers
Ceramics, Glasses & Minerals
  • composition and thickness of optical coatings
  • fiberglass coatings
  • powder surface chemistry
  • mineral weathering
  • layer thickness and composition
  • organic coatings
  • impurity determination
  • bridging vs. non-bridging oxygen
  • film stoichiometry
  • layer thickness
  • etch residues
  • low energy ion implant characterization
  • surface contaminants
  • reverse engineering
  • gate dielectrics
  • diffusion studies
  • surface segregation
  • interface formation
  • corrosion and oxidation studies
  • surface contaminants
  • zeolite composition
  • catalyst poisoning
  • oxidation state determination