Metrology of crystal defects through intensity variations in secondary electrons from the diffraction of primary electrons in a scanning electron microscope

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Understanding defects and their roles in plastic deformation and device reliability is important for the development of a wide range of novel materials for the next generation of electronic and optoelectronic devices. We introduce the use of gaseous secondary electron detectors in a variable pressure scanning electron microscope for non-destructive imaging of extended defects using electron channelling contrast imaging. We demonstrate that all scattered electrons, including the secondary electrons, can provide diffraction contrast as long as the sample is positioned appropriately with respect to the incident electron beam. Extracting diffraction information through monitoring the modulation of the intensity of secondary electrons as a result of diffraction of the incident electron beam, opens up the possibility of performing low energy electron channelling contrast imaging to characterise low atomic weight and ultra-thin film materials. Our methodology can be adopted for large area, nanoscale structural characterisation of a wide range of crystalline materials including metals and semiconductors, and we illustrate this using the examples of aluminium nitride and gallium nitride. The capability of performing electron channelling contrast imaging, using the variable pressure mode, extends the application of this technique to insulators, which usually require conducting coatings on the sample surface for traditional scanning electron microscope based microstructural characterisation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112977
Number of pages26
Early online date13 Apr 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Apr 2020



  • electron channelling
  • secondary electrons
  • semiconductors
  • extended defects
  • SEM

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