Focused ion beam sample preparation of continuous fibre-reinforced ceramic composite specimens for transmission electron microscopy


Dravid Tel: +1 847 467 1363; fax: +1 847 491 7820; e-mail:


The microanalysis of interfaces in fibre-reinforced composite materials is dependent on the successful preparation of specimens suitable for transmission electron microscope (TEM) inspection. Ideal samples should possess large amounts of structurally intact and uniform thin area in the fibre/matrix interface regions of the samples. Because fibre/matrix interfaces in this class of materials are often designed to fail under mechanical stress, conventionally prepared samples are prone to interfacial failure and differential thinning, both of which preclude detailed TEM microanalysis. These effects were seen in a conventionally dimpled and ion-beam-thinned specimen prepared from a continuous fibre reinforced ceramic composite composed of CaWO4-coated Nextel 610TM fibres in an alumina matrix. The dimpled specimen showed large amounts of interfacial failure, with only thick regions of the specimen left intact. To overcome these limitations, a focused ion beam (FIB) technique was applied to this same material. The superiority of the FIB-produced sample is evident in both the morphology and scanning transmission electron microscopy analyses of the sample.