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The sample surface is bombarded with He- or other ions at low energies. The ions are inelastically back-scattered and can be detected by a hemispherical analyzer for their energy losses. Because of the large scattering cross section the ions do not penetrate deeper than the first atomic layer.

The ions excite the atoms in the surface with characteristic energies. These energies are detected by the energy losses of the ions. A precise chemical analysis with high senistivity is possible. Care has to be taken to keep the ion energy so low, that sputtering effects can be neclected.


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