The science and technology of ultrasmall three-dimensional materials systems has been developing rapidly the last 20 years or so. Catalysts, coatings, composites, as well as electronic device structures—all rely on materials properties on an atomic scale. To develop such new materials and understand the chemical and physical properties that determine their unique behavior, we also require analytical tools with atomic level spatial resolution and at the same time the desired measurement capability. This need, along with extensive scientific interest in the fundamental chemical and physical properties of free surfaces, has led to the continued development of microanalytical chemical analysis techniques over the past 20 years. Most readers will be familiar with many of these techniques with acronyms such as AES, XPS, RBS, SIMS, ESCA, etc. This issue of the MRS BULLETIN will review some recent advances in the development of these techniques as well as introduce new techniques with significant advantages over the older ones.
As you can see from the thickness of this issue, it is difficult to cover the entire field in a finite amount of space. This led us to limit the discussion to those microanalytical tools which can easily be applied to the analysis of buried interface structures such as those found in semiconductor devices.