Volume 54, Issue 6 p. 667-676
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Electron reflectivity from clean and oxidized steel surface

Šárka Mikmeková

Corresponding Author

Šárka Mikmeková

ISI Brno, ASCR, Brno, Czech Republic

Correspondence

Šárka Mikmeková, ISI Brno, ASCR, Královopolská 147, 612 64 Brno, Czech Republic.

Email: [email protected]

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Tomohiro Aoyama

Tomohiro Aoyama

JFE Steel Research Laboratory, JFE steel Corporation, Fukuyama, Japan

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Aleš Paták

Aleš Paták

ISI Brno, ASCR, Brno, Czech Republic

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Martin Zouhar

Martin Zouhar

ISI Brno, ASCR, Brno, Czech Republic

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First published: 13 February 2022

Funding information: Technology Agency of the Czech Republic, Grant/Award Number: TN01000008

Abstract

This paper aims to elucidate the effect of an air-formed native oxide covering mild steel surface on the contrast in the scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images obtained with the landing energy from 5 keV down to 0 eV. Part of the mild steel surface was in-situ cleaned by Ar+ ion sputtering process in order to remove native oxide from the surface. It enabled us to observe the oxide-free and the naturally oxidized area on the mild steel surface simultaneously in the SEM micrographs. Presence of the native oxide starts to play a role in the SEM images acquired at landing energy below roughly 3 keV. Contrast between differently oriented grains situated inside the area covered by the native oxide starts to be negligible with landing energy decreasing below 3 keV, up to some ultra-low values where the contrast increases again. Total reflectivity contrast between the clean and the oxidized area increases exponentially with landing energy decreasing below 3 keV. The reflectivity-versus-energy curves of the cleaned and the naturally oxidized mild steel surface are markedly different. The reflectivity of the electrons is correlated with the density of states (DOS), as is demonstrated at very low landing energies. Sensitivity of the very low-energy electrons to the electronic structure was verified by comparison of the experimental data with the simulations of reflectivities, band structure, and DOS. The theoretical predictions are based on the density-functional theory calculations and they have been performed in energy range corresponding to specular reflectivities of the Fe-BCC (001) orientation. We have also observed that close to the mirror condition, that is, near-zero landing energies, the primary electrons become sensitive to the surface potential differences caused by the work function differences of clean and native oxide-covered steel surfaces.