Chemical depth profile analysis using secondary ion mass spectroscopy: SIMS

Cameca Quadrupol SIMS for secondary-ion mass spectrometry.
© Fraunhofer IST, Jan Benz
Cameca Quadrupol SIMS for secondary-ion mass spectrometry.

How does Dynamic SIMS work and what can it do?

In secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), the sample surface is ablated layer by layer with an ion beam. A mass spectrometer allows the chemical characterization of the ablated material, resulting in a depth profile of the chemical composition. Technical Information:

  • Detection of all elements (inc. H, Li, Be ...) and even isotopes
  • Depth resolution down to 1 nm
  • Lateral resolution 20 µm
  • Detection of traces <1 ppm
  • Depth range: 5 nm - 50 µm

Quantitative chemical depth information including of technical components

IST achieves a high quantification accuracy for SIMS by using special procedures. One particular strength is the quantitative determination of hydrogen in carbon-based layers.  

Further fields of application are:

  • Damage analysis, coating adhesion problems, corrosion
  • Quantitative concentration-depth profiles from the nano- to the micrometer scale
  • Chemical investigation of interfaces, surfaces and concentration gradients
  • Detection of trace elements
  • Measurement of technical objects such as components and tools

SIMS depth profile of a wear-protection layer

SIMS depth profile of a wear-resistant coating
© Fraunhofer IST

Wear-protection layer consisting of a Ti adhesion layer, a TiN intermediate layer, a stepped TiNC gradient and a TiCN(H) functional layer.

SIMS depth profile of a thermal insulation layer on architectural glass

SIMS depth profile of a thermal insulation coating on architectural glass
© Fraunhofer IST

Double Ag low-E layer system consisting of various oxide and metallic layers with thicknesses between 3 and 30 nm.

Hydrogen determination in DLC layers

SIMS profile determination of hydrogen in DLC coatings
© Fraunhofer IST

The mechanical and tribological properties of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coatings are determined by the hydrogen content of the carbon top layer. This H content can be determined quantitatively by means of SIMS.

Analytics and testing technology in the application


Hydrogen analytics

How deeply does hydrogen penetrate surfaces?



Fraunhofer IST in the journals


Kirsten Ingolf Schiffmann

Quantitative SIMS Tiefenprofil Analyse – Grundlagen und Anwendungen in der Dünnschichttechnik. (German)

In: Vakuum in Forschung und Praxis, April 2014, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 27-35





Fraunhofer IST in the journals


Kirsten Ingolf Schiffmann

SIMS depth profile analysis of tribological coatings on curved surfaces: Influence of the ion impact angle and take-off angle on the ion yield and on the quantitative analysis of chemical composition.

In: Surface and Interface Analysis (2019), Vol. 51, Nr. 7, p. 703-711