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Ionic liquid-based observation technique for nonconductive materials in the scanning electron microscope: Application to the characterization of a rare earth ore.

Authors
  • Brodusch, Nicolas
  • Waters, Kristian
  • Demers, Hendrix
  • Gauvin, Raynald
Type
Published Article
Journal
Microscopy Research and Technique
Publisher
Wiley (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2014
Volume
77
Issue
3
Pages
225–235
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1002/jemt.22333
PMID: 24390705
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

A new approach for preparing geological materials is proposed to reduce charging during their characterization in a scanning electron microscope. This technique was applied to a sample of the Nechalacho rare earth deposit, which contains a significant amount of the minerals fergusonite and zircon. Instead of covering the specimen surface with a conductive coating, the sample was immersed in a dilute solution of ionic liquid and then air dried prior to SEM analysis. Imaging at a wide range of accelerating voltages was then possible without evidence of charging when using the in-chamber secondary and backscattered electrons detectors, even at 1 kV. High resolution x-ray and electron backscatter diffraction mapping were successfully obtained at 20 and 5 kV with negligible image drifting and permitted the characterization of the microstructure of the zircon/fergusonite-Y aggregates encased in the matrix minerals. Because of the absence of a conductive layer at the surface of the specimen, the Kikuchi band contrast was improved and the backscatter electron signal increased at both 5 and 20 kV as confirmed by Monte Carlo modeling. These major developments led to an improvement of the spatial resolution and efficiency of the above characterization techniques applied to the rare earth ore and it is expected that they can be applied to other types of ores and minerals.

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