First commercial helium ion microscope

Carl Zeiss SMT said during SEMICON West July 2007 that it had shipped the worlds first ‘ORION’ Helium ion microscope, developed by a company called ALIS that it acquired in 2006 to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD.

This was part of a project calls for a new microscope for direct observation and analysis of individual nanostructures at an unprecedented resolution of 0.5 Angstrom — approximately one-third the size of a carbon atom – a key dimension for atomic level research.

Image scanned by a helium ion microscope

According to Carl Zeiss SMT, this new breed of microscope is expected to provide images of unrivalled ultra-high resolution surface and material contrast, unachievable with state-of-the-art technologies of today.

The microscope uses a beam of Helium ions, which can be focused into a smaller probe size and reveal a much stronger sample interaction compared to electrons typically used in scanning electron microscopes (SEM), to generate the signals to be measured and imaged.

Scanning helium ion microscope details