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Instrument Description

The precision etching and coating system (PECS) is an instrument designed to consolidate multiple sample preparation steps of etching and coating in one benchtop unit. The PECS is operable with both inert and reactive ion species. The Pen­ning ion gun is designed to virtually eliminate aperture erosion and consumables. Of the three individual ion sources, one gun is re­sponsible for sample etching and two are used to coat, using high sputter rates with minimal gas load on the system.


The PECS allows the user to reveal microstructural detail through ion beam etching and coating for analysis in the light microscope (LM), scanning electron microscope (SEM), and transmission electron microscope (TEM). The film thickness monitor (FTM) utilizes the front-port-mounted quartz crystal sensor to measure the total deposition thickness and deposition rate during coating. The PECS can be used to produce SEM samples for study of electron channeling contrast, electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) patterns and orientation imaging microscopy (OIM). Sample finishes can reach EBSD levels, providing useful information on grain size and orientation in a material including highly radioactive materials.


  • Three Penning ion guns with miniature rare earth magnets

  • Ion beam energy: 1 keV to 10.0 keV

  • Ion current density: 10 mA/cm2 coating; 3 mA/cm2 etching

  • Ion beam diameter: 1 mm FWHM coating; 5 mm FWHM etching

  • Sample size: Accepts 1.25" metallographic mounts and most SEM stubs

  • Sample rotation: Variable from 10 to 60 rpm

  • Chamber vacuum: 5E-6 torr base pressure, 6E-5 torr operating pressure

  • Standard target materials: C, Cr, Pt, Au/Pd

  • Thickness monitor: Displays coating rate and total coating thickness

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