In situ STEM analysis of electron beam induced chemical etching of an ultra-thin amorphous carbon foil by oxygen during high resolution scanning

Stefan Manuel Noisternig, Christian Rentenberger, H. Peter Karnthaler

Support foils for (scanning) transmission electron microscopy ((S)TEM) samples are commonly amorphous carbon foils. State of the art (S)TEM high resolution imaging methods use ultra-thin carbon foils of only a few nm thickness, especially for imaging beam sensitive materials with low acceleration voltages and electron fluxes. In this study we analyze in situ the effect of chemical etching on a 2 nm amorphous carbon foil due to residual oxygen and by leaking in oxygen into the microscope column. We vary the vacuum level on a Nion UltraStem 100 between ultra high vacuum and that typical in TEM. This enables us to carry out a systematic investigation of chemical etching as function of both, oxygen pressure and electron flux. In addition the results of chemical etching are compared with those of sputtering from knock-on damage leading to the conclusion that chemical etching is the important cause for carbon removal from an amorphous foil at low oxygen pressures and low electron fluxes. We observe that the electron flux dependency using high resolution scanning conditions differs from the case of a resting electron beam. To interpret the results of chemical etching a scanning etching model is proposed that takes care of the specific conditions of STEM.

Physics of Nanostructured Materials
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
103042 Electron microscopy, 103018 Materials physics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials, Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics, Instrumentation
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