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Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS)

Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS) is a technique used in materials science and surface science to analyze the composition of solid surfaces and thin films by sputtering the surface of the specimen with a focused primary ion beam and collecting and analyzing ejected secondary ions.

cogsHow does it work?

These secondary ions are measured with a mass spectrometer to determine the elemental, isotopic, or molecular composition of the surface. SIMS is the most sensitive surface analysis technique, being able to detect elements present in the parts per billion range. Detection limits for most trace elements are between 10-12 and 10-16 atoms per cubic centimeter, depending on the type of instrumentation used, the primary ion beam used and the analytical area, and other factors. Samples as small as individual pollen grains and microfossils can yield results by this technique.

In the field of surface analysis, it is usual to distinguish static SIMS and dynamic SIMS. Static SIMS is the process involved in surface atomic monolayer analysis, usually with a pulsed ion beam and a time of flight mass spectrometer, while dynamic SIMS is the process involved in bulk analysis, closely related to the sputtering process, using a DC primary ion beam and a magnetic sector or quadrupole mass spectrometer.


Surface analysis; chemical analysis; sputtering; etching; surface cleaning; trace element detection.

Sample Handling Requirements:


Complementary Techniques:

TEM, EELS, EDX, Mass Spectrometry.

Warwick Capability:

Atomika 4500.


Claire Gerard: c dot gerard at warwick dot ac dot uk / 07385 145064

SIMS equipment

Typical results format, and sample:

SIMS spectrum


Warwick collect/analyse data

Warwick collect data
 green_tick.gif Available to user with expertise/ contribution
 green_tick.gif Spare capacity for collaborative research