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X-ray spectroscopy is generally accepted as the most useful ancillary technique that can be added to any scanning electron microscope (SEM), even to the point of being considered a necessity by most operators. While “stand-alone” x-ray detection systems are used less frequently in failure analysis than the more exact instrumentation employed in SEMs, the technology is advancing and is worthy of note due to its capability for nondestructive analysis and application in the field. This article begins with information on the basis of the x-ray signal. This is followed by information on the operating principles and applications of detectors for x-ray spectroscopy, namely energy-dispersive spectrometers, wavelength-dispersive spectrometers, and handheld x-ray fluorescence systems. The processes involved in x-ray analysis in the SEM and handheld x-ray fluorescence analysis are then covered. The article ends with a discussion on the applications of x-ray spectroscopy in failure analysis.

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