Auger electron spectroscopy - Energetics of Auger transitions (more rigorous model)


Auger electron spectroscopy is a common analytical technique used specifically in the study of surfaces and, more generally, in the area of materials science. Underlying the spectroscopic technique is the Auger effect, as it has come to be called, which is based on the analysis of energetic electrons emitted from an excited atom after a series of internal relaxation events. The Auger effect was discovered independently by both Lise Meitner and Pierre Auger in the 1920s. Though the discovery was made by Meitner and initially reported in the journal Zeitschrift für Physik in 1922, Auger is credited with the discovery in most of the scientific community. Until the early 1950s Auger transitions were considered nuisance effects by spectroscopists, not containing much relevant material information, but studied so as to explain anomalies in X-ray spectroscopy data. Since 1953 however, AES has become a practical and straightforward characterization technique for probing chemical and compositional surface environments and has found applications in metallurgy, gas-phase chemistry, and throughout the microelectronics industry.

The Auger effect is an electronic process at the heart of AES resulting from the inter- and intrastate transitions of electrons in an excited atom. When an atom is probed by an external mechanism, such as a photon or a beam of electrons with energies in the range of several eV to 50 keV, a core state electron can be removed leaving behind a hole. As this is an unstable state, the core hole can be filled by an outer shell electron, whereby the electron moving to the lower energy level loses an amount of energy equal to the difference in orbital energies. The transition energy can be coupled to a second outer shell electron, which will be emitted from the atom if the transferred energy is greater than the orbital binding energy.

Several models, both phenomenological and analytical, have been developed to describe the energetics of Auger transitions. One of the most tractable descriptions, put forth by Jenkins and Chung, estimates the energy of Auger transition ABC. While useful in practice, a more rigorous model accounting for effects such as screening and relaxation probabilities between energy levels gives the Auger energy as in the shown formula

Related formulas


EABCEnergy of Auger transition (eV)
EABinding energy of the A level (eV)
EBBinding energy of the B level (eV)
F(BC:x)Energy of interaction between the B and C level holes in a final atomic state x (eV)
RXINintra-atomic transition energy accounting for electronic screening (eV)
Rxexextra-atomic transition energy accounting for electronic screening (eV)