The joy of learning is sadly something that many people forget about and some never really feel. One of the things I like to keep in mind when I am learning something new is that learning is usually not a eureka moment, but a process of combining concepts and ideas already known, to reach a new solution or idea. The reason I was thinking about learning as a process is because recently I found myself forgetting that. A customer sample came in that was, for EBSD, hard in every way: Difficult crystal system/orientation, sample prep issues, poor diffractor. With all those factors, the sample was putting up a fight and winning, mainly because I allowed it to. I had tried all my normal tricks and was not making much headway. I knew the sample was analyzable, but I was not treating the process as a personal learning opportunity, instead I was treating it as a fight that I had to win. I was quickly bouncing from potential solution to potential solution and trying them, without spending much time on thinking what would be best to try and how to tackle the problem as a problem, and not a challenge. I didn’t even frame it that way in my own head until a week later when I was visiting a customer site to do some training.
During the training session, a sample came up with a very different set of problems, but still ones that were stymieing us as we sat at the microscope. I found the user resorting to what I had done previously; just try this and see if it works, without thinking about what the best course of action was. As I sat there, I told them to take a step back and evaluate what the issue was and how we could use our knowledge of all the functions available to us in the TEAM software and/or our microscope to find a solution. We sat and talked about the issue and the user was able to come up with a game plan and try some things that would help him reach a solution or gain additional knowledge, aka LEARN. I learned that day – that I sometimes need to treat myself the way I would treat a user. There will always be cases when I don’t know the answer and I have to teach myself the solution.
That leads us to an open question. How do you learn EBSD as you go along? With that in mind, here at EDAX we are going to start a new series of blog posts to discuss the basics of EBSD, from pattern formation, the Hough Transform, and finally indexing. More importantly, I hope to touch on how to troubleshoot issues using your newfound understanding of these concepts and tie the entire processes together as they all play off each other.
My final goal is get your creative juices flowing to dive deeper into understanding the kind of questions that EBSD can answer, and how that, in the end, can provide you with an incredible understanding of your analysis challenges and ultimately a solution to the problem. EBSD is one of the most powerful analytical techniques that I know. It can answer the simple questions (what phase is my sample?) to the incredibly complex (if I squeeze my sample this way, which grains will tend to deform first?). As your knowledge grows, EBSD is one step ahead of you, egging you on to learn more and more. I hope to be your guide on this Journey of Learning. I think I will learn quite a bit too.
My wife tells me I’m a bit of a hoarder. As we have done our spring cleaning, I’ve found coasters of places I’ve dined around the world, shirts a size (or more) smaller that I haven’t worn in years, and 2 Lego minifigures I bought and forgot to give to the kids. I’ve been forced to admit I didn’t need to keep all this any longer. Of course, as someone who develops and demonstrates EDS and EBSD microanalysis tools, the one thing you can never have too much of is interesting samples. I have drawers full of samples I’ve analyzed, or hope to analyze, and they come in handy when someone wants an interesting example for a customer or presentation.
With that in mind, I’d like to describe my adventures with a new sample I obtained this year. I found a bracelet online that claimed to have 62 elements. To me, that seemed wonderful, and potentially a great sample for EDS and EBSD analysis. I ordered one, and anxiously awaited its delivery.
When it arrived, and I opened it, I immediately became a bit suspicious. For the size and volume of material, it felt very light. I have a set of metal coupons that are all the same size but different alloys and materials, and there is a significant different in feel between different alloys. I guessed it was aluminum, but would use EDS and EBSD to determine the composition.
It was an interesting characterization problem though – potentially it contained 62 elements, but I didn’t know the concentration or spatial distribution of these elements. I started with EDS, and used my Octane Elite EDS detector. Initially I set up the SEM for 20kV analysis, with ≈15kcps output through the detector with ≈ 30% deadtime. Under these conditions, the resolution of the EDS detector was 122.8eV. I imaged a 600µm x 800µm area of the bracelet, and collected EDS spectra for 1, 10, 100, 1000, and 10,000 seconds. The signal to background increases as the square of the time collected, so for each 10X increase, I expected to improve the detection by about a factor of 3.
Figure 1. EDS Spectra collected for 10,000 Live Seconds
Figure 1 shows the EDS spectra collected for 10,000 live seconds. With careful review and analysis, I was able to identify 22 of the possible 62 claimed elements. Aluminum had the largest peak, and had the highest concentration. Of course, I knew I was only sampling the surface, and made no attempt to section into the sample. There was also a strong oxygen peak, which I would attribute to an oxidation layer. Most other detectable elements were present in smaller concentrations. Figures 2 and 3 show an energy range between 7.75eV – 9.00 eV, where the k-line peaks for nickel, zinc, and copper are present, for 10 and 10,000 live seconds of collection. These elements were selected because they were present in low concentrations. At 10 live seconds, these peaks are very noisy but present, and additional collection time significantly improves their distribution shape and counting statistics.
Figure 2. EDS Spectra collected for 10 Live seconds with 15kcsp output
Figure 3. EDS Spectra collected for 10,000 Live Seconds with 15kcsp output
Knowing that better counting improves lower limits of detection, I increased the beam current on the SEM to obtain ≈215kcps output counts, and then collected spectra over the same time intervals.* Figure 4 shows the collection under these conditions after 10,000 live seconds. I should note that while I analyzed the same size area, I did not analyze the exact same area, so it is possible any variations could be due to this approach.
Figure 4. EDS Spectra collected for 10,000 Live Seconds with 215kcps output
At this point, I had a lot of data, but increasing the count rate did not reveal any more elements than were initially detected. To evaluate performance, I quantified each spectra, and focused my analysis on the nickel, zinc, and copper elements. The weight percentage of each of these elements is shown in Figure 5 for each collection time and count rate. Each element has the same color (blue for Nickel, red for Zinc, and black for Copper), the lower count rate lines have a marker, while the higher count rate lines do not.
Figure 5. Weight percentage of selected elements as a function of acquisition time and output count rate
To me, this data was very impressive. Except for the 1 and 10 live second collections at the lower output count rate, the consistency of the data was good, even with concentrations of less than 1 weight percentage. The quantification output does give an error percentage value, and rule-of-thumb acceptance criteria was met after 100 live seconds collection at the lower count rate and 10 live seconds collection at the higher count rate. The fact that I continued to collect data for significantly longer times past this point would suggest that the remaining elements are either not-present, not at the surface where I am analyzing, or are present at concentrations lower than my detection limits.
I also wanted to look at this sample structurally, hoping for an interesting multiphase sample with pretty microstructures I could hang in the hall. I sectioned the sample, and polished a portion for EBSD analysis. The PRIAS + IPF Orientation map is shown in figure 6. I was able to index 99.7% of the collected points with high confidence using the aluminum FCC material file. It has a very large grain structure. I did see a number of smaller Fe precipitates, but I have not examined at higher magnification yet.
Figure 6. PRIAS + IPF Orientation map .
All in all, it didn’t turn out to be the sample I had hoped for, but was good to help think about collecting EDS data for both accuracy and sensitivity. I’ll have to share the sample with other colleagues for WDS and µXRF analysis to see if we can find more of these missing elements.
For more information on quantative analysis with EDS, join our upcoming webinar, ‘Practical Quantitative Analysis – How to optimize the accuracy of your data’. Please click here to register.