ToF-SIMS: How Does It Work?


Technology advancements are instrumental in giving analytical solutions for various sectors in the analytical industry. One of the best advancements in the industry is Time of Flight secondary ion mass spectroscopy (ToF-SIMS). It is a robust surface analytical approach with superior chemical sensitivity. Knowing how it works will help you understand and use it better.

How does ToF-SIMS work?

A pulse of an ion beam is used during ToF-SIMS Analysis. It sputters the sample surface, causing secondary ions and ion clusters to emit from the sample’s surface. Then, a time-of-flight analyzer measures the mass of the emitted ions. With the mass and intensity of the SIMS peak, the researcher can determine the identity of the element or molecular fragments.

There are several operations modes which include:

  • Static mode: it’s a low incident ion dose used to probe the molecular structure and long-range chemistry surface. The low doses guarantee intrinsic character rather than ion-induced chemistry. Static SIMS is great for monolayer and polymer surface analysis as it provides a wide range of chemical information.
  • Dynamic mode: it uses high incident ion doses that splutter off surface layers and probe elemental composition as a function of depth into a sample. It has high sensitivity, but molecular information can be scrambled. Dynamic mode is excellent in layered samples, inorganic material, and impurity analysis.
  • Imaging SIMS mode: When a focused ion beam is used over a surface to collect static SIMS spectra as a function of lateral position, it helps achieve a resolution better than 100nm with high mass resolution.

Applications of ToF-SIMS

  • Trace metal detection

Detecting and quantifying trace metals in the semiconductor industry is a critical analytical function. Since ToF-SIMS has isotope sensitivity, the technique can see elements, including light ones. Also, it has high mass accuracy, resolution, and a strong signal-to-noise ratio that facilitate its sensitivity to metal traces. To discover more about the analytical methods for determining trace elements, visit this website:  

  • Organic contaminants

Obtaining data on organic contaminants is vital in many industries. TOF-SIMS analysis provides details on the organic and inorganic data of your sample. You’ll be able to decide how to prevent contamination with that data.

  • Defect analysis of paint

Paints are essential for decorations and stability. However, factors such as glass, metal, polymers, etc., can ruin the paint. That could be due to the various metals used for coating and reshaping after layer. The elements cause crater formation and adhesion problems. ToF-SIMS analysis is an effective way to analyze the defects to know how to prevent them.

  • Electronics and semiconductor technology

The various materials and complex manufacturing methods are why analyzing semiconductors, and electronic components are complicated. However, ToF-SIMS analysis has helped detect contaminants, aging of semiconductor structures, characterization of raw materials, and more.

  • Automotive industry

Vehicles use metals, plastics, electronics, and other components. ToF-SIMS analysis helps address issues such as failure of servomotors, corrosion processes, adhesion problems of the adhesive bond, and deposits on parts of the injection system. Also, ToF-SIMS analysis helps analyze lubricants, metallic coatings’ structure, and plastics’ composition.


 ToF-SIMS analysis  is an ideal opportunity to address current and future analytical issues effectively. However, before investing in it, you’ll need to know how it works. The above information will help you understand how ToF-SIMS works and provide other helpful insight.