Initial Publication Date: April 20, 2021

X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy at the Imaging and Chemical Analysis Laboratory (ICAL), MSU-Bozeman

Montana State University-Bozeman, ICAL Webpage

Contact Information

Sara Zacher (Lab Manager) or Recep Avci (Lab Director)

406 994-4199



Instrument Type

X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS; aka Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis, ESCA)

X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy instrument in the Imaging and Chemical Analysis Laboratory, Montana State University[creative commons]
Provenance: Dave Mogk, Montana State University-Bozeman
Reuse: This item is offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license You may reuse this item for non-commercial purposes as long as you provide attribution and offer any derivative works under a similar license.
  • Instrument Model: Physical Electronics 5600


XPS is a surface-sensitive analytical method that uses an Xray beam to generate photoelectrons whose energies are very sensitive to the bound state of the energized atoms. Photoelectrons have characteristically low energy so they can only escape from the top atomic monolayers on a material surface. XPS. is used to conduct surveys of all elements on a material surface, and multiplex routines are used to look at very small energy shifts in the electron spectrum to determine the bound state (valances) of the elements that are present. XPS is used to characterize material surfaces that have been subjected to surface mediated processes such as sorption, catalysis, dissolution/precipitation, and REDOX reactions.

Typical Use:

XPS is a surface sensitive method that determines the composition of one or a few atomic monolayers on mineral surfaces. This instrument has "small spot" capabilities down to 30 micron resolution. Applications include: a) Elemental identification and quantification, b) Chemical functional group identification and quantification; c) Chemical state imaging; d) Surface sensitivity; e) Layer-by-layer depth profiling; f) Analysis of insulating and conducting samples.

Conditions for Use:

As a regional user facility, ICAL encourages users to acquire training through our Short Courses so that the design and implementation of experiments is done to meet specific user-defined research objectives. Collaboration with ICAL staff is encouraged. Submitted samples can also be analyzed on a contract basis (i.e. lab personnel will do the work). ICAL is also available to do preliminary "proof-of-concept", exploratory experiments, including optimazation of instruments to address the defined tasks, data acquistion, and data interpretation to help support future funding and collaboration opportunities.

User Fees:

Contact the lab manager for details about user fees. In general, user fees are applied only to actual beam time for instrument use and staff time.

Instrument Priorities:

Scheduling is supervised by the lab manager. In general, class demonstrations/projects are scheduled to accommodate academic schedules. External clients (other universities, government agencies, corporate) are scheduled for rapid turn-around of results. All certified users (who take our ~10 hour short courses) are authorized to sign up for instrument use 24/7 at our reservation site. We prefer certified users to design and implement their own experiments, but lab staff are available to assist independent users as needed in experiment design, instrument operation and interpretation of results. ICAL is a node of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure program, and our mission is to extend use of these instruments to support research across the STEM disciplines in academic and corporate research. Some limited funds are available through the NNCI/MONT NSF award to support pilot research projects. Please visit for details.

Remote Use:

Remote operation is not directly possible for any of the ICAL instruments. But in response to the COVID lockdowns, we have implemented use of real-time video delivery to allow external users to observe analysis of their samples and to provide for direct interaction and decision-making as the experiments proceed.

Sample Preparation:

Samples are typically analyzed "as received". Flat surfaces are optimal, although powders can be analyzed. Materials may be mounted on a Si wafer or slice of Indium foil. XPS works under ultra-high vacuum so volatile samples should be avoided.

Standard Collections/Lab Blanks:


Educational Use:

  • Class demonstrations are available for undergraduates
  • Class demonstrations are available for K-12
  • Undergraduate student research projects are invited
  • Graduate student research projects are invited
  • Tutorials and other educational materials related to the lab are available
  • ICAL routinely offers class demonstrations and supports course projects across the STEM disciplines. We encourage interested users to take our 10 hour short courses in the operation of each instrument to become independent users of this facility as part of our professional training program.

Support provided by:

The ICAL facility is partly funded by the NSF National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure Program, award #2025391, Montana Nanotechnology Facility (MONT)