Part of the Oxford Instruments Group


AZtecFeature is an innovative particle analysis system specifically optimised for usability and high-speed throughput. It combines the raw speed and sensitivity of the Ultim Max Silicon Drift Detector with the superior analytical performance and ease of use of the AZtec® EDS analysis suite to create the most advanced automated particle analysis platform on the market.

  • Fast and powerful
  • Accurate
  • Easy to Use

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Fast and Powerful

  • Unleashes the potential of the latest generation of large area Ultim Max SDDs - delivering sensitivity when count rates are low and high capacity when count rates are high.

Choice of detectors to suit budget and needs

  • Up to four detectors can be combined to deliver maximum throughput and sensitivity and eliminate shadowing of particles on rough samples.
  • AZtec has 64-bit performance and is truly multi-tasking
  • Up to 200,000 particles characterised on one sample
  • Real-time detection, morphology and chemistry analysis
  • On-line or post acquisition elemental and phase analysis of particles
  • Parallel analysis and reporting during acquisition


  • AZtecFeature incorporates Tru-Q technology to provide unparalleled elemental identification and quantitative analysis without requiring user intervention, making it the ideal system for unattended data collection.
  • Unique pulse pile-up correction ensures accurate quantitative analysis even at the highest count rates.

Easy to Use

  • Even for new samples, results are obtained in seconds - there’s no need for laborious setup procedures.
  • Morphological and chemical measurements are acquired automatically and are easily incorporated into particle classification schemes.
  • The complete system setup can be stored as a recipe and recalled at a later date.

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AZtecFeature is an innovative system for particle analysis in the SEM. It is specifically optimised for usability and high-speed throughput. This 12 page brochure gives an overview of the system.

Technical Cleanliness in the Manufacture of Ball Bearings

The technical cleanliness of components is crucial to their performance in finished products. As such, the assessment of the level of cleanliness of components is applicable in a wide range of industries, e.g. any involving the manufacture of mechanical devices such as the automotive industry. A typical example of such a component is ball bearings which are at the heart of almost every product with a rotating shaft.

Identifying contaminants in Li-Ion battery production using AZtecFeature

Lithium Ion batteries are found in most mobile electronic devices (e.g. laptop computers, phones etc). They are the dominant battery technology due to their superior energy to weight ratio and lack of memory effect. They are also the primary battery type used in the latest generation of electric and hybrid cars.

Particle Analysis on Table Top Scanning Electron Microscopes

Particles in powder samples come in all shapes, sizes and compositions, and the requirements for their analysis and characterisation can be just as varied. Particle analysis tasks may require only morphological measurements from a single field of view or could require the combination of morphological and chemical data from many thousands of particles from a large sample area.

SEM based analysis of Lithium ion battery materials

New and existing materials for lithium ion batteries are being studied extensively with the aim of increasing their storage capacity and lifetime. While the SEM is an important tool in the study of these materials, characterising the distribution of Li still remains one of the main challenges.

Automoted Analysis of Suspected Asbestos Fibres

The automated analysis of asbestos by scanning electron microscope (SEM) and energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS) is a powerful technique that enables the quantity, composition, and morphology of suspected asbestos fibres to be quickly measured.

Particle & Feature Analysis with AZtecFeature

Here we consider AZtecFeature in the context of engine wear monitoring, geology and air cleanliness and pollution. We discuss how key improvements in AZtecFeature in combination with recent advances in EDS detector hardware make it a compelling proposition for a much wider group of researchers and practitioners in industry and academia.

Quantifying Metal Cleanliness - boride and nitride non-metallic inclusions

In the past, characterising non-metallic inclusions and precipitates in steels and other alloys, especially for light elements such as boron, has presented a challenge. However, AZtecFeature, in combination with a high solid angle windowless EDS detector such as X-Max Extreme and a conventional large area detector provides exciting, novel capabilities.

AZtec Gunshot Residue Analysis

Gunshot residue (GSR) is produced from the condensation of the vapour cloud which is generated from the primer and propellant when a bullet is fired from a gun. The condensing vapour from the primer will form particles which are typically spherical and range from potentially less than 0.5 μm up to significantly larger sizes...

Automated Analysis of Sections of Geological Materials

The manual characterisation of cut sections of geological materials can be a laborious, time consuming process which can be very subjective. AZtecFeature, used in conjunction with large area X MaxN SDDs can automate this process enabling complex mineralogies to be characterised quickly and accurately.

The Application of Recent Developments in EDS Hardware and Software to Process Mineralogy

Improvements in Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) hardware (detector and pulse processing electronics) and software over the last decade have delivered many advances in terms of data quality, acquisition speed and ease of use.



Fast Characterisation of Minerals with Similar Crystal Structures

Combining electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) techniques for geological sample characterisation, helps to unlock even more information on the likely formation and history of the sample.

The Complete Characterisation of Additive Manufacturing Powders with AZtecAM

Investigate the streamlined process through the dedicated AZtecAM software recipe, for complete characterisation of all aspects of metal powders used in additive manufacturing. Ensure the characterisation, particle morphology and individual particle characterisation.

From Mine to Manufacture

Li-ion batteries have been a key enabling technology over the last decade and are vital to further developments of EVs (Electrical Vehicles). Controlling the cleanliness of the raw materials is critical for ensuring the safety of the batteries. Automated analysis makes it fast and easy to identify contaminants and where the contaminants are being introduced.


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AZtecFeature is as automated as flexible as needed

Data in seconds...

Automated feature and particle analysis has never been so easy! Basic particle sizing is available immediately: click on one particle and others in a similar grey level will be automatically detected and their morphology displayed.

  • Real-time calculation of morphological parameters
  • Particle size, shape, aspect ratio... are shown instantly
  • Manually fine-tune particle detection by adjusting thresholds and adding image filters for noise reduction, particle separation etc.


...simply add chemistry

As AZtecFeature is fully integrated with the rest of the AZtec Suite, adding chemical data could not be easier...

  • Acquire an EDS spectrum for each particle automatically
  • Use existing settings in the AZtec user profile for spectrum processing
  • Generate the right result using Tru-Q® algorithms
  • Start building a classification scheme at the click of a button


A simple step from single field to large area analysis

Going from single field analysis to acquiring data over a large area of a specimen or even several specimens is easy:

  • A wizard guides users through the setting up of areas and samples
  • Areas can be stored and recalled for later use
  • For each sample, up to 200,000 particles over thousands of fields of view can be analysed automatically
  • The system fully automates the stage movement, image acquisition and EDS acquisition and stitches the acquired data together into a single large area. Individual fields are automatically shown in a montaged view during acquisition
  • See the ‘big picture’ and zoom into details during acquisition
  • Relocate to any field and acquire data for further analysis
  • Automatic system pause when a blown filament is detected (microscope dependent)



As soon as data from a particle is acquired, it is added to a customisable list displaying morphological and compositional measurements and particle classifications.

  • Interact with and interrogate the tabulated results while data acquisition is still in progress
  • Visualise data in the form of histograms and summary reports can be generated directly into Microsoft Word
  • For further, more detailed analysis and plotting options, comprehensive data export into Microsoft Excel is available

Informed decisions based on morphology and chemistry

Unlike light-optical methods, AZtecFeature classifies particles and features not only by size and shape but also by their chemical composition, including any combination of these parameters.

The extra dimension provided by compositional analysis creates certainty as to the origin and impact of identified particles on materials properties or an industrial process. It opens up applications in R&D and industrial process control such as:

  • Technical cleanliness – identify of the source of contaminants in precision manufacturing processes in the electronics, semiconductor and automotive industries
  • Engine wear analysis – monitor combustion engine health by analysing particles found in engine oil filters
  • Steel cleanliness – analyse the nature and origin of non-metallic inclusions in metals and steels
  • Forensic analysis – detect and analyze trace evidence material in crime science and industrial forensics
  • Geology and mineralogy – identify and measure phase compositions and textures in geological samples
  • Air filter analysis – monitor air quality and pollution by analysing particles in air filters
  • Asbestos - identify fibres in a sample by morphological analysis and confirm the type of asbestos present by chemistry

Rare particle detection

AZtecFeature is ideally suited to rapidly find rare features or particles of interest, solving so-called ‘needle in a haystack’ problems.

By processing the electron image, candidate features can be identified rapidly and their chemistry confirmed by EDS. This technique is widely used in crime forensics to identify gunshot residue and for identifying precious metals in ore samples. It can cut the analysis time from hours to minutes and free up the operator’s time.

Big Data - processing large area maps

AZtec offers the automated acquisition of large area X-ray maps which are used to reveal nanoscale features distributed over large areas. AZtecFeature is used to extract X-ray data from large area maps comprising tens of gigabytes of data. By intelligently combining the information from electron images and X-ray mapping data, AZtecFeature is an effective data mining tool to analyse large sets of analytical data.

  • Search large area mapping data for particular phases or inclusions
  • Perform morphological measurements and classify the features found in these datasets
  • Quantify grain sizes and shapes for compositionally inhomogeneous phases
  • Work on previously acquired mapping data

Process specific particle analysis data to standards and norms

Automated mineralogy*

The most advanced and cost-effective automated mineralogy system on the market.

  • Automatically analyse grain mounts and polished rock sections
  • Calculate mineral liberation, modal mineralogy and phase associations
  • Directly report phase compositions and compare to assay results
  • Use dedicated setups for a range of different ore types

    * Module available in INCAMineral and a subsequent release of AZtecFeature.

Gunshot residue analysis*

The GSR module adds dedicated setups for crime forensics and gunshot residue analysis. It enables particle classification and reporting according to ASTM 1588-10e1.

  • Classification for all ammunition types
  • Reliable identification of gunshot residue particles
  • Standard samples for system calibration and optimum repeatability

*Module available in AZtecGSR and a subsequent release of AZtecFeature.

Metals quality analysis

Analyse inclusions in steels, tyre cords and powder metallurgy...

  • Determination of steel cleanliness according to a range of international standards
  • Identification and classification of complex inclusions, stringers and clusters
  • Comprehensive, automated report generation including statistical data on inclusion types, ternary phase diagrams and plots etc.

Download the application note: AZtecSteel technical bulletin

Advanced characterisation

The integration of AZtecFeature with the other modules in the AZtec nanoanalysis suite enables seamless transitions between different techniques and sensors.

For example, if a particle of specific interest is identified during an automated run, it can be relocated and an X-ray or EBSD map acquired in seconds. AZtec’s advanced TruMap and TruPhase functionality correct for overlaps and background variations in EDS data and identify phases unambiguously by combining EBSD and EDS data.

Integration enables:

  • Automated pre-screening of samples with AZtecFeature
  • Subsequent re-analysis of specific features using alternative techniques
  • Combination of Feature analysis with:
    • X-ray mapping
    • TruMap - removes background and peak overlaps on the fly
  • TruMap - removes background and peak overlaps on the fly
  • Detailed spectrum analysis with interactive overlaps and element profiles
  • Film thickness (LayerProbe)
  • EBSD analysis
  • TruPhase - combines X-ray and EBSD for unambiguous phase identification
A range of Silicon Drift Detectors (SDD) for particle analysis applications

Oxford Instruments’ Ultim Max Silicon Drift Detector comes in a range of sizes to suit budget and application - from 40 mm2 for basic microanalysis up to an astounding 170 mm2 for advanced nanoanalysis. 

  • A range of silicon drift detector sizes
  • From 40 mm2 to 170 mm2
  • The same geometry inside the SEM means count rate increases in proportion to sensor size


All Ultim Max detectors provide:

  • The best low energy performance – all detectors clearly resolve Be
  • The same excellent resolution, guaranteed on your microscope
  • The same physical geometry, so existing systems can be easily upgraded


Using a larger sensor means:
  • Usable count rates at lower currents
  • Maximising imaging performance and accuracy enabling the detection of sub-micron particles and nanoparticles
  • Significantly higher count rates at the same beam current
  • Shorter acquisition times and better statistical confidence
  • Practical analysis with small beam diameters, maximising spatial resolution

For applications that do not demand the full Ultim Max performance, x-act is available. It is a fully quantitative 10 mm2 SDD with excellent performance at low and high count rates.

Multiple detector systems

When used in automated process control, adding one or more extra detectors can significantly enhance the sample throughput.

For challenging applications, where very small particles or particles on beam sensitive sample such as some polycarbonate filters are being is not an option. In such cases multiple detectors can provide an effective solution to enhance the collection efficiency so that particle detection can progress rapidly. For samples where particle size varies significantly, shadowing of smaller particles by larger particles can be a significant issue when only one detector is used. Having at least two detectors mounted on opposing ports can overcome these shadowing effects.

  • Up to four Ultim Max can run in parallel on one microscope to create a system with a total active area of 680 mm2
  • Multiple detectors enable the analysis of:
    • Nanoscale particles at low kV where the highest solid angle is required
    • Particles on beam sensitive substrates (e.g. filters, resins etc)
    • Samples of particles with varying size where shadowing of smaller particles is an issue (see the image at the top of this page).


A multiple detector system not only achieves faster sample throughput, it also reduces the effect of shadowing.

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Related Applications

Nanomaterial Growth and CharacterisationAdditive ManufacturingTechnical Cleanliness ControlIdentification of Contaminants in Food Production and SoilSupply Chain Authenticity in Food ProductionStructural Materials and ComponentsAutomotive EnginesTechnical Cleanliness in Automotive ManufacturingWear Particle Analysis for Jet Engine MonitoringBattery TechnologyGunshot Residue AnalysisAsbestos AnalysisAnalysis of Environmental ContaminantsMetal CleanlinessFailure Analysis Inspection and Process ControlCharacterisation of Catalyst MaterialRock Core AnalysisProcess Mineralogy and Chemical Analysis

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