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EMPIR project develops standard for 3D depth profiling of organic materials

Radio-frequency integrated circuit chip - a potential application for organic materials

New ISO standard makes use of argon cluster beam methods to study organic materials for electronic applications

The project

Advanced manufacturing, photovoltaics and organic electronics are all crucial areas of industry that support the European economy. Organic material industries like these have developed wide-ranging innovative electronic solutions, such as organic LEDs created from semiconductor materials for more efficient displays of light. To provide insight about their performance and manufacture, industry experts commonly use a form of organic material analysis known as ‘sputter depth profiling’ – which utilises secondary ion mass spectroscopy (SIMS) methods to measure 3D chemical distributions in near-surface regions.

The EMPIR project ‘An International Standard for Reliable Chemical Depth Profiling of Organic Materials’ (15SIP02, ISOChemDepth) has developed a new international standard to improve the consistency and comparability of results obtained from this method of material characterisation, underpinning the advancement of organic electronic devices across Europe.

The new standard

In May 2019, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) published a new standard for ‘Surface chemical analysis – Secondary ion mass spectrometry – Method for determining yield volume in argon cluster sputter depth profiling of organic materials’ (ISO 22415). This standard specifies a method using argon cluster beams to find the average sputtering yield volume - a widely-used, practical and comparable measure of organic materials.

A summary of the project’s standard has also been published in the industry peer-reviewed journal, ‘Surface and Interface Analysis’ in July 2019. The article in this journal provides an overview of the methods specified by the standard, in addition to detailed information about how the sputtering yield volume is calculated.

Project coordinator, Charles Clifford (NPL), comments on the new standard,

“This is the first standard for an important, exciting method for measuring chemistry in three-dimensions. It will aid industry adoption of the technique, greatly benefiting the organic electronics and pharmaceutical sectors”.

The completed project’s outcomes are helping laboratories to demonstrate the conformity and reliability of organic materials, providing critical support to the growth of electronics, photovoltaics and even medical device industries.


This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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