Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) is a technique that analyses the composition of a solid sample by sputtering the surface of the specimen with a focused primary ion beam and analysing the ejected secondary ions.

The secondary ions are analysed with a mass spectrometer to determine the elemental, isotopic, or molecular composition of the surface. SIMS is the most sensitive surface analysis technique, being able to detect some elements in the parts-per-trillion range. SIMS is performed using an ion probe.

The Microscopy Australia Flagship Ion Probe Facility at UWA is home to the state-of-the-art CAMECA IMS 1280


SIMS is a versatile technique that may be applied to materials science, earth and planetary science, biology and biomedical science, chemistry and physics.


In situ stable isotope analysis

The ultra-high sensitivity of the ion probes allows small, natural variations in the elemental or isotopic composition of solid samples to be detected and measured. This is particularly useful for determining the composition of minerals and metals, but it can also be used to analyse the composition of biological samples or micro-particulates in environmental samples.

Imaging mass spectrometry

By scanning the primary beam across the sample surface, or using a large stationary spot, it is possible to produce composition maps from which quantitative data can be extracted. This technique is highly versatile and can be applied to a range of sample types, from biological specimens to advanced materials such as alloys and semiconductors.

Depth profiling

As SIMS is a destructive technique, depth profiles can be acquired by monitoring relative secondary ion intensity as a function of depth in a sample. This technique is particularly useful for materials science applications.

Facility access

Applying for access:

Microscopy Australia provides access to its flagship high-end instruments and analytical techniques to the Australian research community.

To apply to access the CAMECA IMS 1280 please follow the 'Apply' link, complete the form, upload your project description and submit.

Apply for access