Auger electron spectroscopy - Total yield


Auger electron spectroscopy is a common analytical technique used specifically in the study of surfaces and, more generally, in the area of materials science. Underlying the spectroscopic technique is the Auger effect, as it has come to be called, which is based on the analysis of energetic electrons emitted from an excited atom after a series of internal relaxation events. The Auger effect was discovered independently by both Lise Meitner and Pierre Auger in the 1920s. Though the discovery was made by Meitner and initially reported in the journal Zeitschrift für Physik in 1922, Auger is credited with the discovery in most of the scientific community. Until the early 1950s Auger transitions were considered nuisance effects by spectroscopists, not containing much relevant material information, but studied so as to explain anomalies in X-ray spectroscopy data. Since 1953 however, AES has become a practical and straightforward characterization technique for probing chemical and compositional surface environments and has found applications in metallurgy, gas-phase chemistry, and throughout the microelectronics industry.
The Auger effect is an electronic process at the heart of AES resulting from the inter- and intrastate transitions of electrons in an excited atom. When an atom is probed by an external mechanism, such as a photon or a beam of electrons with energies in the range of several eV to 50 keV, a core state electron can be removed leaving behind a hole. As this is an unstable state, the core hole can be filled by an outer shell electron, whereby the electron moving to the lower energy level loses an amount of energy equal to the difference in orbital energies. The transition energy can be coupled to a second outer shell electron, which will be emitted from the atom if the transferred energy is greater than the orbital binding energy.

Semi-quantitative compositional and element analysis of a sample using AES is dependent on measuring the yield of Auger electrons during a probing event. Electron yield, in turn, depends on several critical parameters such as electron-impact cross-section and fluorescence yield. Since the Auger effect is not the only mechanism available for atomic relaxation, there is a competition between radiative and non-radiative decay processes to be the primary de-excitation pathway.

Another critical quantity that determines yield of Auger electrons at a detector is the electron impact cross-section. Early approximations (in cm2) of the cross-section were based on the work of Worthington and Tomlin. The shown formula is a simple modification to the Worthington and Tomlin work to account for matrix effects.

The parameter σ_ax can be calculated using :
Auger electron spectroscopy – electron impact cross-section

Related formulas


Y(t)Total yield (dimensionless)
Nxnumber of x atoms per volume (1/m3)
δtthickness of the layer being probed (m)
σ(E,t)electron impact cross-section (m2)
ωXfluorescence (x-ray) yield (dimensionless)
tdepth of electron excitation flux (m)
θanalyzer angle (deg)
λelectron escape depth (m)
I(t)electron excitation flux at depth t (dimensionless)
Ttransmission of the analyzer (dimensionless)
d(Ω)solid angle (steradians)