CMapp New Features

We have added a few new features to CMapp, our microCMA acquisition and data massage software.

For example, when you first open the electron gun dialog box, a filament warm-up reminder pops up:

It is recommended that you warm up the filament at the beginning of each session so that the microCMA can thermally stabilize. The filament warm-up routine brings the filament current up over a 5-minute period and then keeps the filament on.  What is nice about this feature is that you can just click “Yes” and then walk away and come back later when you want to use the microCMA.

Another new feature is the “Auto Set the Beam Voltage to 2 kV ” for alignments:

The alignment acquisition is typically used to acquire a 2 kV elastic peak that sets the analyzer to the sample distance. Surveys and multiplexes are typically acquired with the beam voltage set to 3 kV.  Then, if you move to a new sample, or if you move the same sample to a new location, you would need to re-acquire a 2 kV elastic peak. With the “Auto Set beam to 2 kV” feature, you can just acquire the elastic peak alignment and the beam voltage will automatically change from 3 kV to 2 kV.

The new Diff/Smooth feature combines the differentiate and smooth commands into one click:

Related to the Diff/Smooth command is the ability to automatically Diff/Smooth at the end of an acquisition:

By checking the “Auto Diff/Smooth After Acquisition” box, the data will automatically differentiate and then smooth when the acquisition is complete. The “Auto Diff/Smooth” feature works for surveys, multiplexes, and alignments. Since you need to differentiate the data for quantification anyway, you might as well have it happen automatically.

Finally, we have added a feature that provides estimated target current. This is helpful if your target is grounded internally on your sample manipulator and you have no way to measure the actual electron beam current. Rather than using the emission current to set the relative target current, you can use the estimated target current to set the electron beam current to the recommend 300 nA.

First, select Estimate Target (Beam) Current in the Hardware Properties dialog box:

The estimated target current will be displayed in the Electron Gun dialog box as shown below:

Each electron gun filament behaves a little bit differently so the user-settable Emission Current-to-Target Current ratio can be adjusted in the Hardware Properties dialog box. We will have a video soon that will show you how to set this ratio.

If you have our 9103 USB picoammeter or some other picoammeter, you can measure the target current and enter the value into an acquisition manually (or, in the case of the 9103, automatically). You define this setting in the Hardware Properties dialog box.

If Estimate Target Current is selected, then the estimated target current will be entered into the acquisition before the acquisition starts. Whether entered manually, automatically, or estimated, the target current is displayed on the left-hand side of the alignment, survey, or multiplex acquisition.

For more information on our microCMA compact Auger Electron Spectrometer visit our website:

RBD Instruments microCMA

microCMA Length, the Long and Short of It

RBD Instruments’ microCMA compact Auger electron energy analyzer is designed to fit on a standard 2.75″ / 70 mm CF flange. This makes it possible to add surface sensitive AES (Auger Electron Spectroscopy) to an existing vacuum chamber, as long as there is an available port.

The standard length of the microCMA analyzer is 11.1″ / 283 mm which works well for most 8″ / 200 mm diameter vacuum chambers. This standard length factors in a Z translator that is used to move the microCMA to the sample for analysis and to retract the microCMA when it is not in use. 

However, what if your flange-to-chamber distance is much longer or much shorter than the standard length? There is a 4.5″ / 114 mm limit on how short the microCMA can be due to the geometry of the analyzer section. For longer flange-to-target distances, the analyzer section can be extended as needed. The photo below shows a short 5″ microCMA and a long 21″ / 533.4 mm microCMA.

microCMA Auger Electron Spectrometer

No matter what your flange-to-target distance is, if you have a 2.75″ / 70 mm flange available, it is possible to add the surface-sensitive analytical AES technique to your chamber. The microCMA and Auger Electron Spectroscopy are especially useful for MBE chambers and other research experiments that deposit thin films and where surface-sensitive elemental analysis is required.

For more information on the microCMA visit RBD Instruments’ website here – microCMA

Putting Together a Compact UHV (Ultra-high Vacuum) Chamber for Spectroscopy

Small, inexpensive UHV chambers have been the backbone of many commercial labs and universities for decades. The cost of larger, feature-rich systems has gone up dramatically in recent years, making compact, DIY chambers even more cost-effective for specialized applications and education.

RBD has a range of products available to add value to your compact chamber, and in fact built our own recently to develop and test our microCMA compact Auger analyzer.

RBD Kimball Chamber
Kimball Physics chamber with RBD miniZ, IG2, and microCMA compact Auger analyzer

The Chamber

We started with an 8 inch spherical octagon chamber from Kimball Physics. This chamber has two 8.00″ CF and eight 2.75″ CF mounts, with an internal volume of  106.6 cu. in. (1,747 cc):

Kimball Physics Chamber
Kimball Physics 8.0″ Spherical Octagon – Vacuum Chamber

The vacuum chamber was fitted with an ion pump from Gamma Vacuum, and valves and windows from MDC. Affordable turbo pumps can be sourced from Pfeiffer (HiCube 80 Eco) and Edwards (nEXT85).

Rough vacuum gauges are available from a number of companies including Digivac.

Rough Vacuum Gauge
Rough vacuum gauge

Ion gauges and ion gauge controllers are available from a number of companies including Stanford Research Systems

Ion Gauge Controller
Ion gauge controller


To assist with water vapor desorption, the chamber is fitted with RBD’s miniZ. The mini-Z uses UVC radiation to desorb water from the chamber walls, resulting in faster pump-down times and lower ultimate vacuum.

RBD miniZ
RBD miniZ water vapor desorption system

This chamber is also fitted with RBD’s IG2 2 kV low cost sputter ion gun for specimen cleaning:


The ultimate purpose of this system was to house RBD’s microCMA compact Auger analyzer (shown below with the Z translator attached):

RBD microCMA
RBD’s microCMA compact Auger Analyzer

For applications that require elemental analysis, this chamber, with the addition of a PC and CMapp AES acquisition and data massage software, is now a complete system providing quantitative, surface-sensitive Auger electron spectroscopy. At around $50,000 for all the components listed here, this is one example of a budget-sensitive spectroscopy system that can be assembled, repaired and upgraded without costly field service visits.