XPS / ESCA analysis in a laboratory

What do we mean by XPS analysis ?

X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) is an analytical tool used to determine the chemical composition of a material to a depth of a few nanometers (XPS was previously known as ESCA, standing for Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis).

The technique consists of irradiating the surface of a sample with an X-ray beam to then study the photoelectrons generated by the interaction between the beam and the material. Studying of photoelectrons makes it possible to determine the chemical composition of the material’s surface and to determine each element’s chemical environment (chemical bonds, oxidation number…).


XPS is therefore a technique used to analyze the outermost surface (depth of 3 to 10 nm) of a material, making it possible to qualitatively and quantitatively determine its composition and the chemical forms of elements present on the sample’s surface

Your needs : to determine the chemical composition of a sample’s surface

Whatever your field, XPS analysis can fulfil your needs for surface analysis :

XPS analysis as part of the development of a new product needing important surface functionalization (surface needing to adhere to a greater assembly, surface treatment to improve resistance to corrosion, wear, abrasion, etc.).
Identification of the nature of a deposit or pollutant found on the surface of a material (elemental diagnostics and chemical forms)
XPS analysis of the compliance of a surface treatment applied to an alloy to provide protection from oxidation (passivation, anodization…)

These surface analysis will allow you to ensure the compliance of your products and to solve your industrial problems linked to defects (corrosion, discoloration…) and identify pollutants.

Our solution : to provide XPS analysis suited to your requests and to deliver quick and reliable results

FILAB is a multidisciplinary laboratory providing analytical services, some of which are ISO 17025 accredited :

  • Characterization of the elemental composition of a material’s outermost surface

  • Elemental identification by XPS

  • Expert failure analysis (corrosion, apparition of a stain, discoloration…)

  • Optimization of the passivation procedure as part of a development project

  • XPS analysis

  • Diagnostic of the nature of a deposit or contaminant

  • Validation of a surface treatment process (anodization, passivation…) improving specific surface properties (resistance to corrosion, wear, etc.)

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What equipment is used in XPS analysis?

XPS (X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy) analysis uses a variety of equipment to perform measurements and analysis. Equipment commonly used for XPS analysis includes the following:

  • X-ray source: A piece of equipment generates X-rays, usually using an aluminum or magnesium anode. The X-rays emitted interact with the sample, causing electrons to be ejected from its surface.

  • Photoelectron spectrum analyzer: An analyzer is used to measure the energies of electrons ejected from the sample as a result of interaction with X-rays. The most commonly used analyzers are hemisphere energy analyzers (HSA) and cylinder energy analyzers (CSA).

  • Sample: The sample is placed in the vacuum chamber and exposed to X-rays. It may be solid materials or surfaces. The sample can be prepared by cleaning, polishing or fracturing, depending on the nature of the analysis required.

  • Vacuum chamber: XPS analysis is performed in a vacuum chamber to avoid contamination of the sample by airborne molecules or particles. A high vacuum pressure is maintained inside the chamber during analysis.

  • Detector: A detector is used to measure the number of electrons ejected at different energies. The most commonly used detectors are electron multiplier detectors (SEM) and microchannel anode detectors (MCP).

  • Data acquisition and control system: A data acquisition and control system is used to control equipment, collect data and perform analysis. Specific software is used to process the data and interpret the spectra obtained.

This equipment is used in combination to carry out XPS measurements, which enable analysis of the chemical components present on the sample surface, their oxidation state and their depth distribution.

Differentiating between XPS analysis and XPS characterization

XPS characterization and XPS analysis are common techniques in materials science and chemistry. Although both involve the use of photoelectron spectroscopy, there are some key differences. XPS characterization is used to determine the chemical elements present in a sample, their percentages and molecular structures. XPS analysis, on the other hand, is a more in-depth study of these elements, including their electron charge distribution. 

Ultimately, XPS characterization is useful for identifying elements in a sample, while XPS analysis provides more detailed information on their electrical behavior. By understanding these differences, researchers can make effective use of these techniques in their research. 

Learn more about XPS characterization

XPS characterization, or X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, is a surface analysis technique widely used in materials science. It can be used to study the chemical composition, electronic structure and interactions between atoms on the surface of different types of materials, such as metals, oxides, polymers and semiconductors. This method relies on the interaction between high-energy photons and surface electrons, which are then measured to provide valuable information on material properties. XPS characterization is a non-destructive, highly sensitive technique that can be used for a variety of applications, from fundamental research to materials characterization in industry.


XPS analysis works by irradiating the sample with X-rays, causing electrons to be ejected from its surface. The ejected electrons are then analyzed in terms of kinetic energy to determine the chemical elements present and their oxidation states.

XPS analysis is applicable to a wide range of materials, including metals, semiconductors, polymers, ceramics and composites. Samples must be solid and stable under vacuum.

XPS analysis offers advantages such as high chemical sensitivity, the ability to analyze surfaces non-destructively, the possibility of quantitative analysis and the detection of chemical species present on the surface.

Limitations of XPS analysis include the need to prepare solid samples, the inability to analyze thick layers of materials, the influence of surface properties on results, and the complexity of data interpretation.

A typical XPS analysis involves sample preparation, introduction of the sample into a vacuum chamber, irradiation with X-rays, collection of the ejected electrons, their analysis in terms of kinetic energy and interpretation of the data obtained.

XPS analysis is widely used in many fields, such as materials science, electronics, catalysis, corrosion, nanotechnology, surface biology and coatings research.

To fulfil your needs for XPS analysis, FILAB offers multisectoral expertise and a cutting-edge analytical fleet to reliably fulfil the various requests coming from industrial clients.

For more information about our laboratory’s elemental analytical services, feel free to contact us !

The positive aspects of FILAB

  • A highly qualified team

  • Responsiveness in responding to and processing requests

  • A complete analytical park of 2100m²

  • Tailor-made support

Thomas ROUSSEAU Scientific and Technical Director
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