Sample (specimen) Handling

Good sample preparation methods are vital in surface science as the signals emanating from surface contamination can overwhelm the signals from the sample.

  • Gloves (powder free nitrile or polyethylene) and clean tweezers must be used and any glassware must be thoroughly cleaned before use. Tweezers should be cleaned regularly by sonication in isopropyl alcohol (IPA).
  • Samples can be stored or transported in clean petri dishes and well plates (polystyrene), or clean glass vials. Avoid ALL other plastic containers, including plastic sample bags. A good alternative to plastic or glass containers is new, clean aluminum foil (NOT commercial Reynolds Wrap).
  • In situ sample cleaning by Ar+ etching is available for the removal of thin oxide layers but will cause surface chemical damage and reduce available analysis time. The C60 cluster gun preserves surface chemistry and composition especially for organic and polymer surfaces but significantly reduces analysis time.
  • If the samples have been immersed in electrolytes/salt solutions then wash in distilled water and dry in air. Samples with high surface area, high vapor pressure or which have been immersed in liquids will require longer  to pump down prior to insertion into the instrument. In general, samples should be inserted into the load lock the previous evening.
  • Samples which are sensitive to oxygen or water vapor should be mounted and loaded into the vacuum transfer vessel in the glove box.