Multi-ion beam microscopy and nanofabrication

The Zeiss Orion NanoFab is an advanced scanning microscope that utilises an interchangeable multi-ion beam (helium and neon) for nanofabrication and sub-nanometre imaging.


This equipment especially excels in imaging surfaces with sub-nanometer resolution and unprecedented depth of field. Imaging is achieved by detecting the secondary electrons generated when the ions strike the sample, analogous to FE-SEM. However, it offers new insight from materials with a 5 to 10 times greater depth of field compared to images acquired with FE-SEMs. It can also probe none conductive samples without metallic coatings due to its charge compensation technology using an electron flood gun. The tool is well suited to image challenging samples such as polymer based materials and biological samples, due to the absence of charging effects which is traditionally associated with SEM.

This equipment combines a special gas field-He & Ne -Ion microscope which affords the highest resolution surface imaging of bulk materials from a scanning microscope (≤0.5 nm), and bridges the gap in imaging resolution traditionally left between the scanning electron microscope (SEM) and the transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

Milling / Deposition / Implantation

For milling applications the multi-beam instrument also offers unique capabilities. The Ne+ beam can be used for micro milling, after which features can be refined using the He+ beam to achieve nanostructures. Complex patterns can be generated using the Nanopatterning and Visualization Engine (NPVE) interface. The microscope is armed with a gas injector system (GIS) which enables gas-assisted etching of silicon as well as ion-beam-induced deposition of tungsten and silicon dioxide. Nanoscale implantation studies using both beams can also be performed.


Manufacturer: Zeiss
Model: Orion Nanofab
Imaging resolution: <0.5 nm
Fabrication capability: sub 10 nm
Stage travel: x=50mm, y=50mm, z=8 mm, rotation 0-360°, tilt 0-56°
He+ beam (GFIS): 10 to 30 kV, 0.1 to 100 pA nominal probe size 0.5 nm
Ne+ beam (GFIS): 10 to 30 kV, 0.1 to 10 pA nominal probe size 1.9 nm
Detector: Everhart-Thornley SE detector
Gas Injector System: W, SiO2, XeF2
Structural Information: Topographical, cross-sectional and Transmission
Patterning Software: NPVE, 16 bit scan generator, create a range of fully editable shapes (array builder), full control over dose variation, real time image visualization, automated drift correction
Sample types: conductive, insulating, magnetic, hard and soft materials
Limitations: High vacuum atmosphere. Escape of trapped helium can present a challenge in a few materials (notably silicon and diamond). Damage is generally low, but needs to be monitored


The instrument is located in the Centre for Neural Engineering (CfNE), room G25A
This instrument is booked on an hourly basis.
The Orion Nanofab is currently operated only by the platform support officer.

Sample preparation

It is similar to SEM sample preparation procedure.
If you would like assistance with sample preparation please consider:

  • Sample has to be a solid at room temperature, dry and stable under high vacuum conditions
  • Maximum sample height 20 mm
  • Samples should be very clean prior to imaging to minimize carbon contamination

Additional resources

Zeiss Orion Nanofab Webpage