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Ultim® Extreme

Ultimate spatial resolution and low energy performance for EDS in the SEM. Combining Extreme electronics and windowless construction with optimised geometry and sensor design delivers up to 15x greater sensitivity than a conventional large area SDD.

  • Detection and mapping of Li X-rays

  • Work at energies of less than 2kV to deliver sub 10nm spatial resolution in bulk samples

  • Materials characterisation at sub 1kV

  • Combine with immersion optics to collect high sensitivity data at up to 30kV with no compromise


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Ultim Extreme Silicon Drift Detector is a breakthrough solution for ultra high resolution FEG-SEM applications and delivers solutions beyond conventional micro- and nano-analysis.

The Ultim Extreme is a windowless 100 mm2 version of Ultim designed to maximise sensitivity and spatial resolution. It uses a radical geometry to optimise both imaging and EDS performance in ultra-high resolution FEG-SEMs while working at low kV and short working distance. With Ultim Extreme, EDS resolution approaches that of the SEM.

  • Ultimate spatial resolution for SEM-EDS
    • Sub 10nm element characterisation in the FEG-SEM

  • Surface science sensitivity
    • Characterise surfaces in the SEM

  • Materials discrimination at the lowest kV
    • Down to 1kV materials characterisation

  • Fastest and most accurate nano-characterisation
    • Fast collection, real-time data processing from a bulk sample
  • Extreme light element sensitivity
    • New levels of detectability for elements such as lithium, nitrogen and oxygen

Ultim Extreme a breakthrough solution for ultra high resolution FEG-SEM. This unique detector for the first time enables EDS data collection at very low kV (e.g. 1-3kV) and very short working distance to provide elemental analysis under the conditions customers are using to analyse nano-materials and surfaces at the highest SEM resolution.

The latest ultra-high resolution FEG-SEMs offer new capabilities for investigating smaller nano-structures, interfaces and surfaces. However, under the conditions used, with very short working distance, very low kV and minimal beam current, to make use of new electron signal contrasts from in-lens detectors, no current EDS can provide supporting elemental characterisation. Ultim Extreme changes this, it was designed specifically to operate in this analysis regime with:

  • Unique geometry
    • Designed to work at shorter working distance
    • Designed with the highest solid angle for a conventional port mounted EDS detector – typically 5x greater solid angle than Ultim 170, with the sensor half the normal distance to the sample

  • Windowless operation
    • In combination with the solid angle 10-30x higher sensitivity for low energy X-rays compared to any other large area detectors
  • New detector electronics for boosted sensitivity to very low energy X-rays and extended low energy analytical performance at higher count rates
  • Integration with AZtec Live and its Tru-Q® analysis engine for low kV data processing and analysis
    •  TruMap optimisation for low kV overlap correction

To achieve this unique geometry, the Ultim Extreme is designed with the non-circular 100mm2 sensor and windowless configuration already successfully used in the X-MaxN 100TLE to optimise sensitivity in the TEM. In addition the detector features a new reduced footprint electron trap configuration to allow accurate quantitative analysis up to 7kV beam voltage with qualitative elemental analysis at higher energies.

  • Sub 10nm element characterisation in the SEM
  • X-ray map resolution close to SEM resolution

Example 1: Semiconductor device

X-ray map of smartphone CPU acquired at 3kV. 38,000cps for 30 minutes - sample and data courtesy of MSSCorps.

Example 2: Sn imaging standard

X-ray mapping at 2kV of tin nano-sphere high resolution imaging standard, 6,500cps, 15 min acquisition time.

Example 3: Ni-base Superalloy

Fine Ni3(NbTi) gamma” precipitates in Alloy 718, collected at 1.5 kV, 2,000cps for 18 minutes - Sample and data courtesy of University of Manchester.

With Ultim Extreme users can characterise the composition and distribution of surface contaminants and layers a few atoms thick.

  • Integrate characterisation of surfaces with SEM investigation
  • Analyse the surface structures only visible with in-lens detectors at very low kV and short working distance
  • Save money and time vs Auger/XPS

Example: X-ray Maps collected at 1kV to characterise high-end electronic component stain detected using In Lens SE imaging.

Materials characterisation at 2kV or less

  • Fully integrate EDS where very low kV electron microscopy benefits sample characterisation
    • For enhanced signal contrast
    • Reduction of sample damage e.g for polymers and soft coatings
    • Reduce charging or achieving charge balance conditions


Example: Reducing accelerating voltage from 10 to 1.5kV allows electron image contrast to show the distribution of oxide particles. X-ray mapping under the same conditions characterises precipitates as MnOB. Map acquisition time 15 minutes. Sample courtesy of JFE Steel.

 Fastest nano-characterisation

  • High speed collection
  • Real- time data processing of low kV spectral data
  • Bulk sample – simple sample preparation

Example: X-ray QuantMaps collected at 3kV, 15,000cps for 22 minutes to characterise NbTi Nitride and Al Oxide nano-precipitates in a Ni- base superalloy (Alloy 718). Sample and data courtesy of University of Manchester.

Most accurate nano-characterisation

  • Real-time data processing
  • Unrivalled low energy spectrum quality and integrity
  • Rapid automatic element identification
  • Peak overlap correction of low energy X-ray line series

Example: Spectrum processing of low energy lines to create QuantMaps to characterise NbTi Nitride and Al Oxide nano-precipitates in a Ni- base superalloy (Alloy 718)

Ultim Extreme uses a special electron trap and windowless operation to achieve the required performance to meet its target applications. Its windowless operation provides improvements in count rate of 2-3x for light elements, and nearly 1.5x for the highest lines that can be detected. In combination with the improvement in solid angle this provides a sensitivity boost of 10-30x compared to conventional large area SDD with thin windows. For extremely low energy lines the improvements is even greater and further increased by the use of extreme electronics developed for Li-detection.

  • Windowless configuration offers the most sensitive light element detection
    • Up to 3x increase in signal over conventional SDD detectors
    • New potential for the detection of difficult elements such as nitrogen

Example: First detection of Lithium

Related Applications

´╗┐Nanomaterial Growth and CharacterisationAdditive ManufacturingTechnical Cleanliness ControlResearch into Agrochemicals and SeedsStructural Materials and ComponentsEV TechnologiesAutomotive SensorsBattery TechnologySolar and PV TechnologyMaterials for the Power Generation IndustryMaterial Composition and StructureMechanical and Electrical PropertiesFailure Analysis Imaging of Layered Polymer Structures and Failure AnalysisAnalysing Polymer AdditivesCharacterisation of Low Dimensional StructuresFabrication and Characterisation of Light Emitting DevicesCharacterisation of Catalyst MaterialRock Core AnalysisElectron Microscopy

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