Tascon: The laboratory for surface analysis in Münster

Tascon GmbH, with its headquarters in Münster, is nowadays a competent service laboratory that operates and offers many different surface analysis techniques in its laboratories in Münster and Sulzbach. Though Tascon started with ToF-SIMS as the central surface analytical tool, the history goes back even further.

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1970s and 1980s: pioneering work at the physics institute of the University of Münster

Prof. Benninghoven and his group are developing the static SIMS in his laboratory in Münster. Only very few surface particles are removed for the mass spectrometric analysis of the surface. The surface remains almost unchanged from the analysis, so the information obtained comes from the undamaged surface. Dynamic processes such as temperature or time-dependent changes on the surface can also be observed in the laboratory.

The development of suitable time-of-flight analyzers was also advanced in Münster during this time. The development of high-precision ion detection and registration units with previously unattainable time resolution for time-of-flight measurement is groundbreaking. The combination with analyzers based on the energy-focusing reflectron principle enabled parallel mass detection of all secondary ion masses on a basically unlimited mass scale with simultaneously high mass resolution. The high transmission makes the static ToF-SIMS analysis a sensitive tool for surface analysis with a very good detection limit. The high mass resolution and the gentle surface ablation enable the detection and identification not only of atoms, but also of molecules on the surface of solids. Because of these special properties, the acronym ToF-SIMS established itself as an independent term in the field of surface analysis. At this time, a unique technology for surface analysis arises in the Münster university laboratory.

In 1989 IONTOF GmbH is founded in Münster. It continues the development, manufacture and sale of analyzers of the ToF-SIMS category to a commercial level. It supplies laboratories in industry and research worldwide. Today, IONTOF in Münster is the global leader in the instrument market for time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometers.

1990s: Depth profiling of layers close to the surface: dynamic ToF-SIMS

The use of an additional sputter source for sample removal now also enables depth profile analyses. With the new additional availability of dynamic SIMS, layers close to the surface can be analyzed and displayed. With this update, the analysis system of the static SIMS is retained and the sputter source is added. This combination (dual beam mode) brings together the advantages of dynamic SIMS (depth profiles) and ToF-SIMS (e.g. parallel mass verification of all elements in one analysis and high lateral resolution).

1990s: Further development of molecular secondary ion mass spectrometry

Münster is leading the development of molecular secondary ion mass spectrometry. The introduction of gold cluster sources for sample bombardment combines for the first time a high detection sensitivity for molecules with a high lateral resolution. The detection of molecular impurities on the surface is becoming increasingly important in laboratory practice.

The gentle removal and the high sensitivity of the static SIMS (ToF-SIMS) also show their particular strengths here, as organic molecules quickly fragment through ion bombardment and would then no longer be detectable. Numerous studies on the detection and identification of molecules are carried out during this time. The laboratory analysis of organic contamination on surfaces and the analysis of molecules of organic solids such as plastics and paints are developing into the strength of ToF-SIMS analysis. The importance of ToF-SIMS analysis for error analysis, damage analysis and the support of development processes is becoming increasingly clear. More and more laboratories for surface analysis are recognizing the importance of the information from ToF-SIMS analysis in the interplay of surface analysis techniques.


Institute of Physics at the University of Münster
Institute of Physics at the University of Münster

1997: Foundation of Tascon, GmbH in Münster

With the establishment of Tascon GmbH as a laboratory in Münster, ToF-SIMS surface analysis is also marketed as a service in the application area. The managing partner Birgit Hagenhoff had been involved in the development of the ToF-SIMS analysis instruments and their applications at the physical institute of the University of Münster in the 1980s and 1990s. Later from the foundation of Tascon, its scientists are promoting the development of basic application know-how in all areas of ToF-SIMS analysis in a targeted and highly specialized manner. The knowledge gained is regularly included in contributions to international conferences such as the international SIMS conference, the AVS conference, the European ECASIA and other conferences. In short courses and workshops, which are offered to accompany the EuroSIMS in Münster, for example, Tascon employees together with other scientists and experts give an insight into the countless current applications. Comprehensive knowledge, continuously collected since the beginning of ToF-SIMS surface analysis, is available in the Tascon GmbH laboratory in Münster. The services in the laboratory for surface analysis make ToF-SIMS analysis accessable for industry and research institutions, even when they do not own an instrument.

2000s: The breakthrough in surface analysis of organic materials: Introduction of Bi sources

The analysis of organic substances, for example as organic surface contamination or an integral part of the solid, becomes even more sensitive with the introduction of the Bi-metal ion cluster sources (2005). Larger molecules can be detected with a higher signal and therefore determined easier and more precisely. Research into the causes of surface contamination becomes more specific and more direct in the competent laboratory. Solutions are found faster.

2005: Tascon USA in New York starts operations

Tascon USA is founded in 2005. ToF-SIMS surface analyzes are carried out directly at the New York location. Further surface analyses are offered in cooperation with the German location. North-American customers are getting the entire surface analysis from a single source.

2007: Accreditation according to DIN EN ISO / IEC 17025 for ToF-SIMS

The Tascon laboratory in Münster is accredited for surface analysis using ToF-SIMS. A flexiable accreditation is possible due to the high level of competence of Tascon and its employees over many years. In this way, very different and sometimes very special requirements of different customers can be covered. Quality counts in the laboratory.

2008: LEIS as an additional technology for surface analysis at the Münster location

Low Energy Ion Scattering (LEIS) is added to Tascon's portfolio in the laboratory at the Münster location as an additional, exclusive surface analysis technique. LEIS is sensitive to the first atomic layer. It enables the quantitative analysis of the elemental composition in the first atomic layer. This makes it ideally suited for the analysis of catalysts and thin layers (example: ALD and CVD layers) in the semiconductor industry. With these possibilities it is still unique and is offered by very few laboratories for contract analysis worldwide.

2008: XPS at the Sulzbach im Taunus site

In 2008 a new laboratory location is established in the Rhine-Main area. Surface analysis by XPS is in focus here with its own high-end instrument. But all other analysis techniques are also offered in the laboratory in the Rhine-Main area. Many customers in the region appreciate the short distance to the laboratory.

2010s: Tascon expands its technology portfolio: organic depth profiles

ToF-SIMS surface analysis in the laboratory in Münster is still a major focus of Tascon's activities. Extensive modern and innovative extensions of the ToF-SIMS devices open up new possibilities of the ToF-SIMS surface analysis, which in the past were often considered unattainable.

The introduction of the Ar-Cluster source is another booster in the surface analysis of organic surfaces. Organic depth profiles are now also possible. High signal intensities from molecules, even in deep or thick layers, are now achieved, that earlier were limited to static surface analysis. Layer structures of organic multilayer systems such as organic light-emitting diodes can be examined. Entire molecules, for example dyes, can be identified in all layers.

2012: Accreditation according to DIN EN ISO / IEC 17025 for XPS

Tascon GmbH also receives flexible accreditation for the XPS surface analysis in the Frankfurt (Sulzbach) laboratory. Again, the flexible accreditation is a recognition of the high level of competence, the many years of experience and the motivation of the staff at the Sulzbach location. This means that there is flexible accreditation for the core technology of this location, as was previously the case for the laboratory for surface analysis in Münster.

2017: Hybrid SIMS: unique mass resolution

The introduction of the hybrid SIMS as a combination of ToF analyzer and Orbitrap analyzer (MS-MS system) enables previously unattainable mass resolutions of> 240,000 with a high mass accuracy of <3 ppm. The main point of this development: different molecular fragments with very similar mass can be precisely differentiated. The determination of unknown molecules (e.g. pharmaceutical substances and their metabolites) is easily possible. A giant leap towards the identification and differentiation of molecules has been made. This technology is available to our customers on request in the laboratory for surface analysis in Münster.

2017: Accreditation for determining the roughness of surfaces using optical profilometry

Tascon, with its laboratory in Münster, is now also accredited for determining the roughness of surfaces using optical profilometry.

2020: Accreditation according to the new edition of DIN EN ISO / IEC 17025: 2018

All accredited areas, in particular the flexibly accredited areas of ToF-SIMS and XPS surface analysis, are audited by DAkkS according to the new edition of the standard. After a successful audit, nothing stands in the way of the formal conversion of the accreditation to the new standard. The quality of the laboratories in Münster and in the Frankfurt (Sulzbach) area is confirmed to be state of the art.

Quality and comprehensive surface analysis will continue to be the guidelines for the development of Tascon GmbH in the future.