Sicon Drift detector X-Max Extreme, EDS resolution approaches that of the SEM

X-Max Extreme Silicon Drift Detector is a breakthrough solution for ultra high resolution FEG-SEM applications and delivers solutions beyond conventional micro- and nano-analysis.


The X-Max Extreme is a windowless 100mm2 version of X-Max designed to maximise sensitivity and spatial resolution. It uses a radical geometry to optimise both imaging and EDS performance in ultra-high resolution FEG-SEMs while working at low kV and short working distance. With X-Max Extreme, EDS resolution approaches that of the SEM.

  • Ultimate spatial resolution for SEM-EDS
    • Sub 10nm element characterisation in the FEG-SEM
  • Surface science sensitivity
    • Characterise surfaces in the SEM
  • Materials discrimination at the lowest kV
    • Down to 1kV materials characterisation
  • Fastest and most accurate nano-characterisation
    • Fast collection, real-time data processing from a bulk sample
  • Extreme light element sensitivity
    • New levels of detectability for elements such as lithium, nitrogen and oxygen

NEW launched at M&M 2017 Ultim Extreme

Brochure and Application Notes

X-Max Extreme

X-Max Extreme is a windowless 100mm2 version of X-Max designed to maximise sensitivity and spatial resolution. It uses a radical geometry to optimise both imaging and EDS performance in ultra-high resolution FEG-SEMs. This 4 page brochure shows some of the applications.

PDF 6.05MB
Nanometre scale EDS analysis using low-kV FESEM and windowless EDS detector

Oxford Instruments X-Max Extreme is an EDS detector specifically optimised for low-kV applications. This application note gives examples of its use..

PDF 4.86MB
Mapping of Semiconductors in the SEM

As semiconductor devices continue to decrease in size to improve performance and take advantage of advances in fabrication techniques, there is a need to analyse both their structure and chemistry at ever increasing resolution. Typically this requires the use of TEM for metrology and failure analysis. Using ultrahigh resolution FEG-SEM, low kV imaging and the new X-Max Extreme EDS detector we demonstrate the ability to retain some of this high resolution analysis in the SEM. This allows for better targeting of resources and increased throughput of analysis.

PDF 4.31MB
Extreme Application Paper

Sub-10 nm spatial resolution for SEM-EDS using a novel EDS detector design.

This document is derived from an academic poster written in conjunction with Manchester University for M&M 2015.

PDF 4.22MB
Analysis of Highly Insulating Ceramic Boron Nitride at 1.5 kV using X-Max Extreme

In this study we focus on the unique capability of X-Max Extreme to deliver meaningful analytical data at very low energies which, for insulators such as Boron Nitride ceramics, means that samples can be analysed without coating.

PDF 3.54MB

Technical background

X-Max Extreme a breakthrough solution for ultra high resolution FEG-SEM. This unique detector for the first time enables EDS data collection at very low kV (e.g. 1-3kV) and very short working distance to provide elemental analysis under the conditions customers are using to analyse nano-materials and surfaces at the highest SEM resolution.

The latest ultra-high resolution FEG-SEMs offer new capabilities for investigating smaller nano-structures, interfaces and surfaces. However, under the conditions used, with very short working distance, very low kV and minimal beam current, to make use of new electron signal contrasts from in-lens detectors, no current EDS can provide supporting elemental characterisation. The new X-Max Extreme changes this, it was designed specifically to operate in this analysis regime with:

  • Unique geometry
    • Designed to work at shorter working distance
    • Designed with the highest solid angle for a conventional port mounted EDS detector – typically 5x  greater solid angle than X-MaxN 150, with the sensor half the normal distance to the sample
  • Windowless operation
    • In combination with the solid angle 10-30x higher sensitivity for low energy X-rays compared to any other large area detectors
  • New detector electronics for boosted sensitivity to very low energy X-rays and extended low energy analytical performance at higher count rates
  • Integration with AZtecEnergy and its new Tru-Q analysis engine for low kV data processing and analysis
    • New improved TruMap for low kV overlap correction

To achieve this unique geometry, the X-Max Extreme is designed with the non-circular 100mm2 sensor and windowless configuration already successfully used in the X-MaxN 100TLE to optimise sensitivity in the TEM. In addition the detector features a new reduced footprint electron trap configuration to allow the detector to operate up to 7kV beam voltage.

Ultimate spatial resolution for SEM-EDS

  • Sub 10 nm element characterisation in the SEM
  • X-ray map resolution close to SEM resolution

Example 1: Sn imaging standard

Nano-characterisation of Sn nano-spheres

X-ray mapping at 2kV of tin nano-sphere high resolution imaging standard, 6,500cps, 15 min acquisition time.


Example 2: Ni-base Superalloy

Ni base Superalloy characterisation

Fine Ni3(NbTi) gamma” precipitates in Alloy 718, collected at 1.5 kV, 2,000cps for 18 minutes - Sample and data courtesy of University of Manchester.

Surface science sensitivity

With X-Max Extreme users can characterise the composition and distribution of surface contaminants and layers a few atoms thick.

  • Integrate characterisation of surfaces with SEM investigation
  • Analyse the surface structures only visible with in-lens detectors at very low kV and short working distance
  • Save money and time vs Auger/XPS

Example: X-ray Maps collected at 1kV to characterise high-end electronic component stain detected using In Lens SE imaging.

Surface science and EDS

Low kV material discrimination

Materials characterisation at 2kV or less

  • Fully integrate EDS where very low kV electron microscopy benefits sample characterisation
    • For  enhanced signal contrast
    • Reduction of sample damage e.g for polymers and soft coatings
    • Reduce charging or achieving charge balance conditions

Reducing accelerating voltage from 10 to 1.5kV allows electron image contrast to show the distribution of oxide particles. X-ray mapping under the same conditions characterises precipitates as MnOB. Map acquisition time 15 minutes. Sample courtesy of JFE Steel

materials characterisation at 2kV or less

Fast, accurate nano-characterisation

Fastest nano-characterisation

  • High speed collection
  • Real- time data processing of low kV spectral data
  • Bulk sample – simple sample preparation

X-ray QuantMaps collected at 3kV, 15,000cps for 22 minutes to characterise NbTi Nitride and Al Oxide nano-precipitates in a Ni- base superalloy (Alloy 718). Sample and data courtesy of University of Manchester.

Fastest nano-characterisation

Most accurate nano-characterisation

  • Real-time data processing
  • Unrivalled low energy spectrum quality and integrity
  • Rapid automatic element identification
  • Peak overlap correction of low energy X-ray line series

Spectrum processing of low energy lines to create QuantMaps to characterise NbTi Nitride and Al Oxide nano-precipitates in a Ni- base superalloy (Alloy 718)

Most accurate nano-characterisation

Extreme light element sensitivity - inc. Lithium

X-Max Extreme is much more than a new model to the X-Max range. It uses a special electron trap and windowless operation to achieve the required performance to meet its target applications.  Its windowless operation provides improvements in count rate of 2-3x for light elements, and nearly 1.5x for the highest lines that can be detected. In combination with the improvement in solid angle this provides a sensitivity boost of 10-30x compared to conventional large area SDD with thin windows. For extremely low energy lines the improvements is even greater and further increased by the use of new faster detector electronics developed for Li-detection.

  • Windowless configuration offers the most sensitive light element detection
    • Up to 3x increase in signal over conventional SDD detectors
    • New potential for the detection of difficult elements such as nitrogen

Example: First detection of Lithium
Detection of Lithium by EDS


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