This review describes the examination of micro-volumes of material for the purpose of determining their chemistry, structure, and morphology. The techniques discussed encompass a broad range of capability, such as electron probe analysis (EPA), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), ion mass analysis (IMA), Auger electron spectroscopy (AES), and combinations thereof. These techniques, their range of applicability as well as the desirability and feasibility of combining them within a single instrument are discussed. A major emphasis is placed on electron probe analysis because of the broad application and extensive theoretical development it has undergone during the past dozen years.
The fundamentals of accurate quantitative analysis using electron beam excitation are presented. The accuracy, precision, and resolution capabilities of the SEM*-EDS combination are compared with the conventional EPA*-WDS arrangement, and recommendations as to the most desirable combinations are made. Electron interactions in solids and their effect on spatial resolution are described, and the significant enhancement of performance resulting from the use of the new electron guns—lanthanum hexaboride and field emission—is explained.
The experimental problems associated with the measurement of X-ray intensity ratios in EPA are explained. A complete example of quantitative analysis in a ternary system is fully worked out and an entire section is devoted to the initial needs of the novice. The role and feasibility of automation in the instrument of the future is pursued. A number of outstanding applications in the following fields are included: materials research, geology, archaeology, forensic science, ecology, numismatics, and biology.