Southampton Nanofabrication Centre

The Zeiss Orion helium ion microscope is a new type of microscope that uses helium ions for surface imaging and analysis. Its functionality is similar to a scanning electron microscope, but it uses a focused beam of helium ions instead of electrons. Since helium ions can be focused into a smaller probe size and provide a much smaller sample interaction compared to electrons, the ORION generates higher resolution images with better material contrast and improved depth of focus. The high resolution arises from the use of a finely sharpened needle and a process that strips individual atoms away from the source until an atomic pyramid is created with just three atoms at the very end of the source tip. The Orion achieves a resolution of less than 0.9nm at an energy of 25-30kV and can deliver beam currents between 1fA and 25pA. Analysis of material composition can also be performed using Rutherford backscattering.