Subsurface analysis by application of FIB-SEM to samples of geological and historical importance

Johnson, Diane; Kearns, Stuart and Grady, Monica M. (2012). Subsurface analysis by application of FIB-SEM to samples of geological and historical importance. In: Meeks, Nigel; Cartwright, Caroline; Meek, Andrew and Mongiatti, Aude eds. Historical Technology, Materials and Conservation: SEM and Microanalysis. London: Archetype Publications, pp. 56–61.


The successful application of focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) to a range of geological and historical objects has shown that important three-dimensional information can be revealed, enabling the characterisation of the fine structure and chemical composition contained within the samples. Fossil feathers from theropod dinosaurs showed sub-micron scale details suggestive of cellular- to sub cellular-level preservation. Ancient coins revealed surface finishing processes such as gilding. Further applications of the FIB-SEM technique were explored, most specifically in the study of meteorite weathering processes occurring during curation in the restricted environment of a museum collection. Examination of the internal chemical distribution of rusting patches on and within iron-nickel alloy regions of meteorites help to define best storage conditions for samples containing significant metal areas. One of the advantages of the technique is that samples may be analysed intact and without any preparation. Charge neutralisation can also be employed for analysis of non-conductive samples, allowing stable milling of a sample without charge build.

Viewing alternatives

No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions