Part of the Oxford Instruments Group

AZtec LayerProbe

LayerProbe is an exciting new software tool for thin film analysis in the SEM. An option for the AZtec EDS microanalysis system, LayerProbe is faster, more cost-effective and higher resolution than dedicated thin film measurement tools.

  • Thin film analysis in the SEM

  • Characterises multiple layers beneath surface of the specimen

  • Non-destructive analysis

  • Thickness and composition of multiple layers from 2 nm to 2000 nm

  • Lateral resolution down to 200 nm

  • Easy to set-up for routine user, and a cost effective extension of your SEM or FIB-SEM

  • An extension to AZtecEnergy: seamlessly integrated and easily retrofittable to existing installations

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LayerProbe complements the elemental and phase information gained from conventional EDS analysis by also calculating the composition and thickness of the individual layers beneath the surface.

Using a highly focussed electron beam to analyse a sample means the analysis is spatially resolved laterally as well as with depth, therefore nano-scale thin film structures can be measured.

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This 8 page brochure shows the features, benefits and operating principles of LayerProbe - and the many applications it is applied to.

High quality TEM lamella preparation and on-tip analysis using LayerProbe

Here we present a new technique that enables measurement of the local thickness and composition of TEM lamellae and discuss its application to the failure analysis of semiconductor devices.

Analysing Flexible Electronics

Research and development of electronic circuitry mounted on plastic substrates is gathering pace.

Characterisation of all-oxide solar cells using AZtec LayerProbe

Photovoltaic (PV) cells are an attractive option for generating low carbon renewable energy but traditional designs often include undesirable toxic compounds and must be manufactured under special conditions.


LayerProbe is ideal for a wide range of applications, including back- and front-end chip manufacturing, semiconductor R&D, optical and industrial coatings, nanoelectronic devices...

Semiconductor R&D

  • Measure thickness and composition of metallisation and dielectric layers
  • Accurately characterise oxide formation on bond pads (e.g. Cu oxide on Cu)
  • Optimise thin film deposition processes (CVD, ALD, sputtering, evaporation)

Solar cells

  • Characterise active layers in thin film solar cells (CIGS, CdTe)
  • Optimise TCO layer thickness and uniformity
  • Characterise anti-reflection coating thickness and composition

Optical Coatings

  • Optimise the colour and transparency of optical coatings by accurately determining the film thickness and composition
  • Compositional measurement uncovers non-uniformities not seen in conventional thickness measurements

Industrial Coatings

  • Suitable for decorative and structural coatings
  • Uncover and accurately characterise sub-surface defects with minimal sample preparation


  • Measure uniformity of nanoparticle coatings
  • Characterise contacts to nano-devices
  • Relate device performance and structure using nondestructive layer measurements

LayerProbe provides a new way to quantify TEM lamella thickness and quality in situ - as well as a complimentary technique to the cross-sectional analysis of layered specimens on FIB-SEMs.

  • LayerProbe takes only seconds to characterise the lamella thickness and to detect and measure any implanted Gallium
  • Its precise thickness measurement enables faster preparation of high-quality, ultra-thin lamellae
  • Sub-surface defects are pinpointed to identify locations where to cut with the FIB-SEM
  • LayerProbe can also characterise and optimise the quality of layers deposited or processed in the FIB using gas assisted deposition and etching

LayerProbe is based on proven technology and has significant benefits compared to alternative techniques

A comparison of LayerProbe with other techniques

High spatial resolutionYesNo (>>1 micron)YesYes
Rapid analysisYes (each point takes seconds)YesNo (several hours)No
CostRelatively inexpensiveExpensiveVery expensiveExtremely expensive

How accurate is LayerProbe?

Comparison of ALD layers on silicon substrate

LayerProbe Thickness (nm)Density (gcm-3)Ellipsometry Thickness (nm)Refractive Index
HfO228.1 ± 0.19.433.6 ± 52.04
Al2O357.0 ± ± 51.64

LayerProbe EDS and RBSD composition measurement

LayerProbe - Stoichiometric RatioRBS - Stoichiometric Ratio
Hf /O2.132.07
Al /O1.561.60

Example: PCB Application - Au on Ni on Si substrate

LayerProbe and XRF thickness measurement

LayerProbe Thickness (nm)Density (gcm-3)XRF Thickness (nm)
AU60.1 ± 0.719.361 ± 25
Ni123.5 ± 0.78.9141 ± 24

SEM cross section measurement confirms the result...

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Nanomaterial Growth and CharacterisationEV TechnologiesAutomotive SensorsBattery TechnologySolar and PV TechnologySolar Cell Electrical and Structural CharacterisationFailure Analysis Inspection and Process ControlImaging of Layered Polymer Structures and Failure AnalysisCharacterisation of Low Dimensional StructuresFabrication and Characterisation of Light Emitting Devices