How to Package Analysis Samples

Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Inc. provides sample packaging materials on request. We have clean glass vials of various sizes and SEM/EDS sampling stubs/vials that we are pleased to provide for your use.

If you don’t have clean glass bottles for sample packaging:

  • For organic testing, e.g., FTIR, GC-IR, and Raman analysis we recommend using clean aluminum foil
  • For SEM/EDS testing we recommend plastic bags
  • For surface analysis, e.g., Auger, XPS/ESCA, or AFM we recommend clean containers only.

If you have any question concerning sample packaging, please ask a member of our staff. The quality and value of our services is our highest priority.

Free sampling containers provided for confirmed orders only.

Surface Analysis Sampling

PRIOR to producing, selecting and shipping your analysis specimens, please consider the following questions concerning your samples and your analysis needs. We encourage you to phone us to clarify any concerns that may arise related to your particular specimens.

Sample Type

  • Any solid with low vapor pressure, i.e., solids that do not readily sublime at room temperature and pressure of 1 x 10-9 Torr. Samples may be in the form of bulk material, powders, thin films, coatings, or residues.
  • Liquids of low vapor pressure as defined above.
  • Solids or liquids of low vapor pressure that can be extracted from “solution” via drying, filtration, or distillation.

Sample Size & Topography


  • Maximum size for standard mounting is 4″ dia x 1″ h.
  • Preferred size is 3/4″ dia x 1/8″ h.
  • Custom mounts can be machined to accommodate samples that do not meet these requirements.
  • XPS: The feature or area to be analyzed should be at least 50 µm diameter. Samples which are smaller (such as 5 µm fibers or particulates on filters) may be analyzed, provided they can be physically isolated, or by subtracting the spectrum of the background material.


  • Maximum size is 1″ dia x 3/4″ h.
  • Preferred size is 1/2″ dia x 1/8″ h.
  • The feature or area to be analyzed should be at least 0.3 µm dia. for AES and at least 1 mm dia. for SIMS.


  • If your specimens can be destroyed, then we can cut almost any specimen to meet our desired dimension.
  • For all three techniques, the instrument signal-to-noise and the depth resolution increase with increasing sample smoothness. Selection of the smoothest sample can help decrease cost and improve data reliability.

Sample Selection

Comparative Studies

  • If your study involves a comparison of good vs. bad, fast vs. slow, dark vs. light, contaminated vs. clean, debonded vs. bonded, or corrosion susceptible vs. corrosion resistant, then the best favor you can do for yourself is to provide us not only with the bad sample, but with the good sample or “blank” as well.
  • We recommend doing at least duplicate analyses on both good and bad samples.
  • Reference specimens of suspected contaminants greatly increase the usefulness of the analysis.
  • It is useful to provide us with at least 3 or 4 examples of both good and bad specimens (even if you decide to analyze only one of each type) so that we may choose the sample configuration that best fits our analysis geometries.

Material Characterizations

  • When attempting to establish stoichiometries of compounds, compositions of alloys, oxidation states or film thickness, we suggest doing at least duplicate analyses on both the specimens that you have produced or wish to study (as in reverse engineering) and well characterized standards.

Sample Handling and Shipping

Due to the extreme surface sensitivity of the analytical techniques that we use (Static SIMS ~4 Å, XPS and AES ~35 Å) it is vitally important that the surfaces to be analyzed remain unaltered. Clean surfaces need to be kept clean, and contaminated surfaces need to be protected from addition of other types of contaminants as well as loss of the contaminant of interest.


  • Small samples should be handled only with clean tweezers. We recommend cleaning the tweezers with isopropyl alcohol/freon before using them on any samples.
  • Large samples, for which tweezer handling is impractical, may be handled with clean, degreased, powder-free clean-room type gloves, provided the handled area remains at least 1″ from the area to be analyzed.
  • Ideally, the analysis surface should never be contacted by tweezers, gloves, or any other surface.


  • If practical, the shipping configuration shown below will provide the best protection for your samples and we always encourage its use.
  • The acrylic plastic box should be placed in a padded cardboard box to prevent shattering during shipping.
  • If the packaging configuration shown above is impractical, the sample may be placed in clean (should be proven clean via surface analysis) polyethylene Ziplock ™ bags. The bagged samples should then be packed in a padded cardboard box in such a way as to minimize abrasion of the polyethylene against the analysis surface.
  • Never allow foam padding to come in contact with the sample.
  • For domestic shipments, we recommend using Federal Express. For international shipments we have had good results with Federal Express and DHL.

Analysis Request

Information Required

  • Please describe the problem that is occurring or the purpose of your investigation and what information needs to be provided by us.
  • Please describe your sample:

    • What is the basic or expected composition or your sample?
    • What are the approximate film thicknesses?
    • How was it produced (deposition technique, chemicals used, times, temperatures, etc.)?
    • Was it polished, etched, or treated in any way?
    • Was it exposed to a corrosive environment (what type)?
    • What are the known differences between the specimens?

Specifics of Analysis

  • Please consider the following questions to aid in determining your exact analysis needs:

    • Do you need “bulk” composition or surface composition? Is a depth profile needed?
    • Do you want to look for all elements present, or will one or two be sufficient?
    • Are the elements of interest expected to be at or above our detection threshold?
    • Do you need detailed bonding states of elements, or is a simple elemental composition adequate?
    • Do you need mapping of any elements on the surface?
  • A sketch/photo of the sample with the areas to be analyzed clearly marked and described will not only decrease the time spent on the analysis, but will insure that the analysis is performed exactly as you require.
  • If possible, provide a cross-sectional diagram with your desired analysis locations shown.


  • When do you need results?
  • Who can answer questions regarding the specimens or analysis needs, and who should receive telephone results of the analysis?
  • What is your mailing/shipping address for reports and samples?
  • What is the purchase order number for the work and what is the “Not-to-Exceed” amount?
  • Do the samples need to be returned?