EBSD in China

Sophie Yan, Applications Engineer, EDAX

EBSD in China is a big topic and it may sound as though I am not qualified to judge or to summarize the current situation. However, as I have worked with EBSD applications for several years, I have personal experience to share. More than ten years ago, I didn’t know about EBSD when I was studying the microstructure of materials. I was in Shanghai at that time and the environment was kind of open. It is probably that at that time in China: very few people knew about EBSD. Today the situation has changed enormously after just after 10+ years. Most researchers now try to put EBSD on their microscope. Microscopes including EDS and EBSD capability are standard in Chinese universities.

As an Applications Engineer, I visit research organizations, companies, and factories. I meet customers from many different backgrounds. Some of them are experts but more are new to microanalysis, especially students from science and engineering universities. They may each have a different focus, but they all have high expectations of EBSD. The professors care about the functions which can solve their issues. If there is currently no such function, then they often ask if we can add it. Entry level users prefer to learn how to operate the microscope and detectors quickly so that they get their results as soon as possible. The most frequent question asked is, what can EBSD do? Then I begin my introduction and I see that they become more and more interested. Sometimes they have high expectations. For example, when I demonstrate stress/strain analysis, I am often asked how to get stress value. This is a common misunderstanding because as an indirect way technique, EBSD can show the strain trend of materials, but it is beyond it to measure stress value.

My routine work includes introduction and training. Over a period of time, I can see a newcomer becoming more experienced and getting his own results, which makes me proud as a supporter. Whereas I care about the EBSD technology itself, the customers are more interested in learning how to use it in their work to solve some of their analysis challenges. They often give me new ideas and make me aware of other areas besides pure technology, for example, how to remove the users’ initial fear for EBSD. As a student majoring in material science I thought crystallography was very different from the reality I now understand. As a ‘teacher’ I am not focused on how to keep our users’ interest on EBSD and reminding to them to use it regularly. Fortunately, social media has improved the speed and consistency of our communication. When issues are solved quickly, people think the EBSD technique is less difficult. Effective communication contributes to the technology transfer.

The level of adoption of EBSD hardware in China is excellent, but the usage of and research into the technique is still in its infancy. I have spoken to many people about this issue. The interesting thing is that outsiders tend to give an optimistic perspective. An Australia professor told me several years ago that we should be taking a longer-term view and that there would probably be, a tremendous change in the next ten years. Quantitative results make a qualitative change. I hope he is right!

Fortunately, EBSD usage in China has increased greatly and continues to increase, which shows us a promising future.




Water, Sand and Salt, and Why We Care About Compounds

Tara Nylese, Global Applications Manager, EDAX

Somewhere around the age of five years old, many of us learn that another way to identify water is by the molecular name, H2O. This usually leads to more questions like: ‘What is H?’, ‘What is O?’, ‘How does that make water?’, ‘Why should I care?’. Over the years, we grow into more advanced chemistry students exploring topics like compound formulas, and we learn that the world we live in is made up of complex associations of combined atoms. A chemical compound is a substance that is composed of two or more chemical elements. The reason that we should care about compounds is that an element such as Oxygen (O) can be very different if it is associated with Hydrogen into H2O to make water, or as SiO2, which is Silicon Dioxide that makes up sand on a beach, or as Fe2O3, which is ferric oxide, loosely known as rust on steel. Therefore, as microanalysts, we should pay close attention to compounds because the elements alone do not always tell us the complete nature of the material we’re analyzing.

Once we grow into an “expert scientist,”* we become deeply entrenched in the details of microanalysis, and we often forget to take a step back to see the big picture. For example, as an EDS analyst, I look at the spectrum below and I think “what a nice sodium peak” or “hmm, am I picking up Al due to scatter at variable pressure?” But unless I’m using it for an introduction to a microscopy and microanalysis student lecture I don’t often simply call it what it is, and that is NaCl, or salt.

Next, we look at the electron image at very low mag and that gives us a better contextual understanding that it is a grain of salt.

When we look back at the spectrum again with a big picture view, we recognize that the main elements present in the spectrum are Na and Cl, and that they make up the compound NaCl, or salt.

In follow up to my recent webinar, I received a lot of questions asking “What are CompoMaps?” and “How can I use CompoMaps?” I was glad to see so much interest in such a valuable routine, and I do hope that users of every level can use this “Compound” view to understand their materials more deeply. To answer the first question, “CompoMaps” is a sophisticated software routine that creates a display of the elemental composition of each pixel. That is, the intensity of the pixel display color is a direct representation of the peak intensity of an element. It is helpful when there is a trace amount of an element, because the routine separates the peak from the background, removing the noise and intensifying the signal. It is perhaps most useful for separating element peaks where there is ambiguity whether there is one element, or another. In the example shown below, I was collecting this data when I happened to get a chance to web connect with an earth sciences professor. After he saw the before and after, he commented that the “after” made much more sense because those two elements would not likely be in combination together in any mineral.

The results here show that Phosphorus in green and Zirconium in purple are definitely located in two different phases.

Before CompoMaps:
After CompoMaps:
Superimposed into one image:
What we didn’t see in the webinar was the Oxygen map, shown here for the first time:
The display shows both with (right) and without (left) the Phosphorus and Zirconium superimposed, and this gives us a better understanding about the compound, since Oxygen is present with these elements. After full investigation of all element maps, we find that the two phases are Ca5(PO4)3F, or fluorapatite and ZrSiO4, or Zircon.

Finally, the answer to the question, “How can I use CompoMaps?”, is easy. This is a routine that EDAX has had in all of our software packages from Genesis to TEAM™ (as Net Maps) and now in APEX™. The routine has been optimized for APEX™ with 64-bit architecture and advanced processing capability, along with an easy to use workflow for results in live-time. So, give it a try and see what you can find!

*My personal opinion is that we should never let ourselves call ourselves experts, lest we forget that there is always something new to learn.

Looking At A Grain!

Sia Afshari, Global Marketing Manager, EDAX

November seems to be the month when the industry tries to squeeze in as many events as possible before the winter arrives. I have had the opportunity to attend a few events and missed others, however, I want to share with you how much I enjoyed ICOTOM18*!

ICOTOM (International Conference on Texture of Materials) is an international conference held every three years and this year it took place in St. George, Utah, the gateway to Zion National Park.

This was the first time I have ever attended ICOTOM which is, for the most part, a highly technical conference, which deals with the material properties that can be detected and analyzed by Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) and other diffraction techniques. What stood out to me this year were the depth and degree of technical presentations made at this conference, especially from industry contributors. The presentations were up to date, data driven, and as scientifically sound as any I have ever seen in the past 25 years of attending more than my share of technical conferences.

The industrial adaptation of technology is not new since X-ray diffraction has been utilized for over half a century to evaluate texture properties of crystalline materials. At ICOTOM I was most impressed by the current ‘out of the laboratory’ role of microanalysis, and especially EBSD, for the evaluation of anisotropic materials for quality enhancement.

The embracing of the microanalysis as a tool for product enhancement means that we equipment producers need to develop new and improved systems and software for EBSD applications that will address these industrial requirements. It is essential that all technology providers recognize the evolving market requirements as they develop, so that they can stay relevant and supply current needs. If they can’t do this, then manufacturing entities will find their own solutions!

*In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that EDAX was a sponsor of ICOTOM18 and that my colleagues were part of the organizing committee.

Looking at the World of Microanalysis in Color

Tara Nylese, Global Applications Manager, EDAX

Several years ago, I was talking to a customer, who asked whether we could change the color scheme of the EDAX TEAM™ software. He said was that it was hard for him to tell the difference between the spectrum background and the cursor. I replied, “Well, the cursor is a lime green and the background is more like a gray-gre…..Oh, wait, you’re colorblind, aren’t you?” Surely enough he was, and while I can’t “see” his perspective, I can listen to and respect it. Thus, the motivation of this blog is to let our customers know that we in Applications listen to them and take their needs seriously.

In this specific case, I am happy to report that we just recently received feedback on the new EDAX APEX™ software, and one comment was that the user really liked the “contrast” of the red spectrum on the white background – see the image below.

More generally, it is one main goal of the EDAX Applications team to make sure that we capture the “real world” customer feedback and incorporate it as much as possible into future product enhancements, bug fixes and new generations of products. Each of our Worldwide Apps team members can talk to upwards of ten customers a week. These conversations are usually in interactions such as support calls, training sessions and demos. At each opportunity, we hear tremendously valuable real-world customer perspective, and very often we learn what we can’t “see” ourselves. Often, if I’m asked to share my thoughts, my words are just a colorful patchwork of years of customer ideas all melded into a microscopy amalgam.

Customer perspective is so important, in fact, that it is a cornerstone of the EDAX App Lab Mission Statement. A few years ago, I compiled about three pages of descriptions of what people thought of when they thought of Apps, and then condensed them down into the following statement that hangs on our HQ App Lab walls.

The EDAX US App Lab uses technical expertise and creativity plus a strong focus on understanding the needs of our internal and external customers to drive excellence in innovative analytical solutions. The applications group supports company-wide efforts to provide real-life value and benefits to our customers which differentiate our products in materials analysis.

Now to get back to the colors which are available for maps in our software. One of the lesser known functions is the ability to select and edit your color palette:

Using this option, you can choose from a 40-color palette, seen here. Remember to click on the element in the periodic chart first, then select your color.

Since I brought up the topic of colorblindness, I’ll also use a colorblind app that simulates how a Red/Green colorblind person sees the world (or our color palette).

Note the green color of O and P, and see how closely it compares to the yellow color of the lanthanide/actinide series!

Finally, to summarize the Applications message: to our current customers – thank you for sharing your thoughts; to all our applications team colleagues – thank you for gathering so much wide-ranging information and promoting the importance of it internally, and to all our future customers – when you chose EDAX, you’re choosing to join a dynamic microanalysis company, which strives to develop the most meaningful features and functions to meet your microanalysis needs.

How to Increase Your Materials Characterization Knowledge with EDAX

Sue Arnell, Marketing Communications Manager, EDAX

The EDAX Applications and Product Management teams have been very busy offering free ‘continuing education’ workshops in September and October – with a great global response from our partners and customers.

At the end of September, Applications Specialist Shawn Wallace and Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) Product Manager Matt Nowell joined 6 additional speakers at a ‘Short Lecture Workshop for EBSD’, sponsored by EDAX at the Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis (CEMAS) at The Ohio State University. The participants attended sessions ranging from ‘EBSD Introduction and Optimization of Collection Parameters for Advanced Application’ to ‘The Dictionary Approach to EBSD: Advances in Highly-Deformed and Fine-Grained Materials’.

Feedback on this workshop included the following comments, “This was a great learning opportunity after working with my lab’s EDAX systems for a couple of months”; “I like the diversity in the public and the talks.  I was very pleased with the overall structure and outcome”; and “Great! Very helpful.”

Matt Nowell presents at the ‘Short Lecture Workshop for EBSD’ at CEMAS, OSU.

In mid-October, EBSD Applications Specialist, Dr. Rene de Kloe traveled to India for a series of workshops on EBSD at the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore), the International Advanced Research Center (Hyderabad), and the Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai). Topics discussed at the sessions included:

• Effects of measurement and processing parameters on EBSD
• The application of EBSD to routine material characterization
• Defining resolution in EBSD analysis
• Three Dimensional EBSD analysis – temporal and spatial
• Advanced data averaging tools for improved EDS and EBSD mapping – NPAR™
• Microstructural Imaging using an Electron Backscatter Diffraction Detector – PRIAS™
• Transmission EBSD from low to high resolution

Dr. René de Kloe presents at one of three recent workshops in India.

According to our National Sales Manager in India, Arjun Dalvi, “We conducted this seminar at different sites and I would like to share that the response from all our attendees was very good. They were all eager to get the training from Dr. René and to take part in very interactive Q and A sessions, in which many analysis issues were solved.”

Global Applications Manager Tara Nylese was at the Robert A. Pritzker Science Center in Chicago, IL last week to give a presentation on “Materials Characterization with Microscopy and Microanalysis” for the Illinois Institute of Technology. “In this lecture, we started with a basic introduction to electron microscopy, and then dived deeper into the fundamentals of X-ray microanalysis. We explored both the basics of X-ray excitation, and how to evaluate peaks in an X-ray spectrum. From there, we looked at applied examples such as composition variation in alloys, chemical mapping of components of pharmaceutical tablets, and some fascinating underlying elemental surprises in biological materials.”

Finally, today we have 50 participants at the Geological Museum in Cambridge, MA for a training workshop given by Dr. Jens Rafaelsen and sponsored by Harvard University on “Taking TEAM™ EDS Software to the Next Level” * Presentation topics include:

• Basic operation of the TEAM™ EDS Analysis package
• How to get the most out of TEAM™ EDS Analysis
• Advanced training
• Tips and Tricks using TEAM™ EDS Analysis

Dr. Jens Rafaelsen presents at the Harvard workshop.

Here at EDAX, we are keen to provide our customers, potential customers, and partners with opportunities to improve their knowledge and polish their skills using the techniques, which are central to the EDAX product portfolio.  Our EDS, EBSD, WDS and XRF experts enjoy helping with regular training sessions, webinars, and workshops. If you would like to be included, please check for upcoming webinarsworkshops, and training sessions at www.edax.com.

*A video of these workshop sessions will be available from EDAX in the coming weeks.

My Fossil Background

Dr. René de Kloe, Applications Specialist, EDAX

Call me old-fashioned, but when I want to relax I always try to go outdoors, away from computers and electronic gadgets. So when I go on vacation with my family we look for quiet places where we can go hiking and if possible we visit places with interesting rocks that contain fossils. Last summer I spent my summer vacation with my family in the Hunsrück in Germany. The hills close to where we stayed consisted of shales. These are strongly laminated rocks that have been formed by heating and compaction of finegrained sediments, mostly clay, that have been deposited under water in a marine environment. These rocks are perfect for the occurrence of fossils. When an organism dies and falls on such a bed of clay and is covered by a successive stack of mud layers, it can be beautifully preserved. The small grains and airtight seal of the mud can give a very good preservation such that the shape of the plant or animal can be found millions of years later as a highly detailed fossil. Perhaps the most famous occurrence of such fossil-bearing shale is the Burgess shale in British Columbia, Canada which is renowned for the preservation of soft tissue of long-extinct creatures. The Hunsrück region in Germany may not be that spectacular, but it is a lot closer to home for me and here also beautiful fossils have been found.

Figure 1. Crinoid or sea lily fossil found in the  waste heap of the Marienstollen in Weiden, Germany.

Figure 2. Detail of sulphide crystals.

Figure 3. Example of a complete crinoid fossil (not from the Hunsrück area). Source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fossile-seelilie.jpg

So, when we would go hiking during our stay we just had to pack a hammer in our backpack to see if we would be lucky enough to find something spectacular of our own. What we found were fragments of a sea lily or crinoid embedded in the rock (Figures 1,3) and as is typical for fossils from the area, much of the fossilised remains had been replaced by shiny sulphide crystals (Figure 2). Locally it is said that the sulphides are pyrite. FeS2. So of course, once back home I could not resist putting a small fragment of our find in the SEM to confirm the mineral using EDS and EBSD. The cross section that had broken off the fossil showed smooth fracture surfaces which looked promising for analysis (Figure 4). EDS was easy and quickly showed that the sulphide grains were not iron sulphide, but instead copper bearing chalcopyrite. Getting EBSD results was a bit trickier because although EBSD bands were often visible, shadows cast by the irregular surface confuse the band detection (Figure 5).

Figure 4. Cross section of shale with smooth sulphide grains along the fracture surface.

Figure 5. EBSD patterns collected from the fracture surface. Indexing was done after manual band selection. Surface irregularities are emphasized by the projected shadows.

Now the trick is getting these patterns indexed and here I do like computers doing the work for me. Of course, you can manually indicate the bands and get the orientations of individual patterns, but that will not be very helpful for a map. The problem with a fracture surface is that the substrate has a variable tilt with respect to the EBSD detector. Parts of the sample might be blocking the path to the EBSD detector which complicates the EBSD background processing.

The EDAX EBSD software has many functions to help you out of such tight spots when analyzing challenging samples. For example, in addition to the standard background subtraction that is applied to routine EBSD mapping there is a library of background processing routines available. These routines can be helpful if your specimen is not a “typical” flat, well-polished EBSD sample. This library allows you to create your own recipe of image processing routines to optimize the band detection on patterns with deviating intensity gradients or incomplete patterns due to shadowing.

The standard background polishing uses an averaged EBSD pattern of more than ~25 grains such that the individual bands are blended out. This produces a fixed intensity gradient that we use to remove the background from all the patterns in the analysis area. When the actual intensity gradient shifts due to surface irregularities it is not enough to just use such a fixed average background. In that case you will need to add a dynamic background calculation method to smooth out the resulting intensity variations.

This is illustrated in the EBSD mapping of the fossil in Figure 6. The first EBSD mapping of the fossil using standard background subtraction only showed those parts of the grains that happened to be close to the optimal orientation for normal EBSD. When the surface was pointing in another direction, the pattern intensity had shifted too much for successful indexing. Reindexing the map with optimised background processing tripled the indexable area on the fracture surface.

Figure 6. Analysis of the fracture surface in the fossil. -1- PRIAS center image showing the smooth sulphide grains, -2- Superimposed EDS maps of O(green), Al(blue), S(magenta), and Fe(orange) -3- EBSD IPF on IQ maps with standard background processing, -4- original IPF map, -5- EBSD IPF on IQ maps with optimized background processing, -6- IPF map with optimized background.

In addition to the pattern enhancements also the band detection itself can be tuned to look at specific areas of the patterns. Surface shadowing mainly obscures the bottom part of the pattern, so when you shift the focus of the band detection to the upper half of the pattern you can maximize the number of detected bands and minimize the disturbing effects of the edges of the shadowed area. It is unavoidable to pick up a false band or two when you have a shadow, but when there are still 7-9 correct bands detected as well, indexing is not a problem.

Figure 7. Band detection on shadowed EBSD pattern. Band detection in the Hough transform is focused at the upper half of the pattern to allow detection of sufficient number of bands for correct indexing.

In the images below are a few suggestions of background processing recipes that can be useful for a variety of applications.

Of course, you can also create your own recipe of image processing options such that perhaps you will be able to extract some previously unrecognized details from your materials.

A Bit of Background Information

Dr. Jens Rafaelsen, Applications Engineer, EDAX

Any EDS spectrum will have two distinct components; the characteristic peaks that originate from transitions between the states of the atoms in the sample and the background (Bremsstrahlung) which comes from continuum radiation emitted from electrons being slowed down as they move through the sample. The figure below shows a carbon coated galena sample (PbS) where the background is below the dark blue line while the characteristic peaks are above.

Carbon coated galena sample (PbS) where the bacground is below the dark blue line while the characteristic peaks are above.

Some people consider the background an artefact and something to be removed from the spectrum (either through electronics filtering or by subtracting it) but in the TEAM™ software we apply a model based on Kramer’s law that looks as follows:Formulawhere E is the photon energy, N(E) the number of photons, ε(E) the detector efficiency, A(E) the sample self-absorption, E0 the incident beam energy, and a, b, c are fit parameters¹.

This means that the background is tied to the sample composition and detector characteristic and that you can actually use the background shape and fit/misfit as a troubleshooting tool. Often if you have a bad background, it’s because the sample doesn’t meet the model requirements or the data fed to the model is incorrect. The example below shows the galena spectrum where the model has been fed two different tilt conditions and an overshoot of the background can easily be seen with the incorrect 45 degrees tilt. So, if the background is off in the low energy range, it could be an indication that the surface the spectrum came from was tilted, in which case the quant model will lose accuracy (unless it’s fed the correct tilt value).

This of course means that if your background is off, you can easily spend a long time figuring out what went wrong and why, although it often doesn’t matter too much. To get rid of this complexity we have included a different approach in our APEX™ software that is meant for the entry level user. Instead of doing a full model calculation we apply a Statistics-sensitive Non-linear Iterative Peak-clipping (SNIP) routine². This means that you will always get a good background fit though you lose some of the additional information you get from the Bremsstrahlung model. The images below show part of the difference where the full model includes the steps in the background caused by sample self-absorption while the SNIP filter returns a flat background.

So, which one is better? Well, it depends on where the question is coming from. As a scientist, I would always choose a model where the individual components can be addressed individually and if something looks strange, there will be a physical reason for it. But I also understand that a lot of people are not interested in the details and “just want something that works”. Both the Bremsstrahlung model and the SNIP filter will produce good results as shown in the table below that compares the quantification numbers from the galena sample.


While there’s a slight difference between the two models, the variation is well within what is expected based on statistics and especially considering that the sample is a bit oxidized (as can be seen from the oxygen peak in the spectrum). But the complexity of the SNIP background is significantly reduced relative to the full model and there’s no user input, making it the better choice for the novice analyst of infrequent user.

¹ F. Eggert, Microchim Acta 155, 129–136 (2006), DOI 10.1007/s00604-006-0530-0
² C.G. RYAN et al, Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research 934 (1988) 396-402