Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy – SIMS

Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy or SIMS is a tool for composition analysis of metals, semiconductors, polymers, biomaterials, minerals, rocks, and ceramics.

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    Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry

    Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy or SIMS is a tool for composition analysis of metals, semiconductors, polymers, biomaterials, minerals, rocks, and ceramics. As the name suggests, SIMS, using a mass spectrometer, analyzes secondary ions ejected from primary ions bombardment on the sample surface. SIMS can detect almost all elements in the periodic table, from Hydrogen to Uranium, in very low concentrations and with high lateral resolution. Thus, it is useful for dopants, impurities, and trace element analysis.

    Static and Dynamic SIMS are two modes differentiated by whether only the top layer of the solid or a depth (from nm to a few tens of micron) is probed. These modes are accomplished by changing the primary ion beam’s dose i. e. a low dose ion beam only knocks out atoms from the top monolayer while a high dose beam goes through several layers.  Time-of-flight (ToF-SIMS), quadrupole, and magnetic sector mass spectrometers options are available in combination with modes.

    Common Uses

    • Contamination and impurities distribution in thin-film multilayer stacks
    • Depth profile of dopants (B, C, N) concentration in Si
    • Molecular species in organic materials
    • Isotopes and trace elements in minerals
    • Analysis of the defects at the interfaces in atomic layer systems
    • Composition analysis for III-V, II-VI, GaN, SiC, Si, GaAs, Diamond, Graphene, Biological, Organic Materials, Minerals, etc.

    SIMS Advantages

    • The only technique for direct detection of hydrogen and deuterium
    • High detection sensitivity approaching ppb, parts per billion
    • Covers elements from Hydrogen to Uranium
    • High mass resolution (dynamic range) for all materials, conducting or insulating
    • High lateral resolution (<50 nm)


    • Quantification is complicated and requires standards
    • Chemical bonding information is not provided
    • Only materials that can be used under ultra-high vacuum
    • Destructive analysis


    • Semiconductors
    • Nanotechnology
    • Additive Manufacturing
    • Advanced Materials
    • Automotive
    • Energy Storage and Batteries
    • LED and Display
    • Mining and Minerals
    • Biomaterials

    SIMS Laboratories

    • Evans Analytical Group – EAG laboratories
    • Covalent Metrology
    • Materials Evaluation and Engineering – MEE
    • Lucideon
    • Rocky Mountain Labs

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      FAQ on Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy – SIMS

      Where Can I Do SIMS Analysis Of Materials?

      Our network of material testing labs regularly provides depth profile and surface scan testing of materials using scanning ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and ToF-SIMS techniques.

      How Much Does Scanning Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS) Analysis Cost?

      Surface scans of materials using ToF-SIMS starts from $250/sample.

      What is scanning ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) used for?

      scanning ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) is an imaging technique coupled with a spectrometer used to obtain surface elemental, isotopic and molecular information from solid samples. It is also frequently employed for depth profiling of samples, imaging, and compositional analysis of surface defects and contaminants in the micro-scale.

      What is the difference between static and dynamic SIMS models?

      The two scanning ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) models differ in the ion beam type, sample sputtering intensity, and the information obtained. Static SIMS like ToF-SIMS uses a low ion beam dose suitable for compositional information on the sample’s outermost layer. On the other hand, dynamic SIMS, like a magnetic field type SIMS uses a chemically active ion beam that recedes into the material’s bulk as the analysis progresses. Dynamic SIMS is most often used to obtain dopant and impurity depth distributions and impurity concentrations in semiconductor materials.