GISAXS as a valuable tool for analyzing nanostructured semiconductors

Grazing-incidence small-angle X-ray scattering (GISAXS) is an excellent tool for fast and reliable analysis of nanostructured surfaces of all kinds. Here we show an example of the analysis of surface-structured semiconductors prepared by low-energy ion erosion.


The field of applications for nanopatterned surfaces is wide ranging and versatile. Examples include templates for thin-film deposition and coatings of magnetic thin films on patterned surfaces. Such structures can alter the magnetic properties significantly and/or influence the optical properties of a material.

While the bombardment of a surface with energetic ions results in the removal of surface material (roughening, smoothing, cleaning), the use of low-energy ion erosion can lead to formation of self-organized periodic patterns. The periodicity can be tuned by varying the energy of the ions. The resulting structures can be in the order of a few 10 nm up to a few µm.

Grazing-incidence small-angle X-ray scattering (GISAXS) is a powerful method for the structural analysis of thin films and nanostructured surfaces.1 In GISAXS, the X-ray beam is directed onto the sample surface at a very shallow angle (αi < 1°). By changing this incident angle, the penetration depth of the X-rays into the material can be altered and thus, structures close to the very surface of the film and buried structures can be discriminated. One of the main benefits of GISAXS is that this method is non-destructive and typically does not require any sample preparation (as is needed e. g., in SEM/TEM). The results are highly complementary to other surface-sensitive methods such as microscopy. In contrast to these techniques, GISAXS is capable of analyzing much larger sample areas to obtain a better idea of the over-all quality of a sample. GISAXS can also be used to perform in-situ measurements, varying e. g., the atmosphere or temperature around a sample.



1. Schnablegger, H. & Singh, Y. The SAXS Guide - Getting acquainted with the principles. 4th edn,  (Anton Paar GmbH, 2017).

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