A combined scanning electron microscope and focussed ion beam instrument is suitable for micro- and nanopatterning, cross-sectioning and subsequent imaging, of specimens at room temperature as well as under cryo conditions. In order to reveal internal details, samples are conventionally milled with the ion beam positioned perpendicular to the sample surface. Using this approach certain limitations are frequently encountered, e.g. accumulation of redeposited material, shadowing effects, image distortion and a limited imaging area. Here we show an approach in which samples are pre-trimmed using a microtome to obtain a sample block face that is parallel to the ion beam. This new grazing incidence geometry eliminates the need for removal of bulk material with the ion beam and enables immediate fine polishing of a pre-selected area of interest. Many of the limitations previously described are avoided and in addition milling time is reduced, whilst creating larger cross-sectional areas. Another advantage is that electron imaging can be accomplished by tilting the sample surface perpendicular to the electron beam, providing a geometrically undistorted image. The proposed approach is suitable for materials that can be microtomed, both in ambient and cryogenic conditions, and proves to be of particular benefit for biological and food samples.
Hazekamp, J., Doherty, S., Elsaesser, A., Barnes, C., O'Hagan, B., McKerr, G., & Howard, V. (2011). Focussed ion beam milling at grazing incidence angles. Journal of Microscopy, 242(1), 104-10. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2818.2010.03466.x