Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry

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    Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry (RBS)

    Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry (RBS) is a non-destructive elemental analysis technique frequently used for thin film semiconductor material stacks. It is frequently used for quantitative compositional analysis of a sample, depth profiling of individual elements, and near-surface layer analysis of the samples. This information can be used to determine the quality of single crystal substrate samples as well. Depth profiling characterization of films can be performed up to less than 1μm thick.

    RBS uses beams of high-energy helium ions (typically 0.5–4 MeV) directed onto a sample, which are repelled by the positively charged nucleus of atoms in the specimen. A solid-state detector measures the energy distribution and yield of backscattered ions from the sample which is used to obtain the elemental composition and depth profile.

      Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry (RBS) Common Uses

      • Determination of composition, thickness, and stoichiometric ratio of thin films
      • Quantification of the film density (when the thickness is known)
      • Determination of near-surface crystallinity of the sample
      • The concentration profiles of metal ions diffused in polymers
      • Determine areal concentrations (atoms/cm2)
      • Characterization of colloidal nanocrystals to quantify compositional changes during cation-exchange reactions
      • The composition analysis of reverse osmosis membranes

      Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry (RBS) Advantages

      • Provides quantitative analysis of a sample without the need for reference standards
      • Non-destructive technique
      • The good depth resolution of the order of several nanometers (nm)
      • Good sensitivity for heavy elements in the order of parts per million (ppm)
      • Analysis of both conductive and insulating samples is possible

      Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry (RBS) Limitations

      • Less sensitive for light elements- elastic recoil detection analysis (ERDA) is used for the quantitative determination of hydrogen, while nuclear reaction analysis (NRA) is used for the determination of light elements from Li-Ne
      • RBS can not determine the chemical structure of the sample
      • Useful depth profile limited to top ~1μm of samples
      • The sample should be compatible with vacuum


      • Semiconductors
      • Advanced Materials
      • Coatings, Thin Films, and Membranes
      • Laboratories
      • EAG Laboratories, Inc.
      • Amethyst Analytical
      • Cerium Laboratories, LLC
      • Materials Research Laboratory, University of Illinois

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        FAQ on Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry (RBS)

        Our network of material testing labs regularly provides rutherford backscattering spectroscopy (RBS) compositional analysis services for thin-films.

        Surface chemical analysis of materials using rutherford backscattering spectroscopy (RBS) starts at $700/sample.

        Rutherford backscattering spectroscopy (RBS)  is used to obtain the chemical composition in thin-films. It is also suitable for additional thin-film characterization including, film density, thickness, and areal concentration measurements. Single crystal substrate characterization is also possible with RBS.