Ultra low energy SIMS (uleSIMS) is a high sensitivity analytical technique that is normally used for ultra shallow profiling at a depth resolution of up to 1 nm. This work describes the use of uleSIMS as both a spectroscopic and depth-profiling tool for the characterization of the early stages of corrosion formed on reference surfaces of silver. These samples are being developed to help with the characterization of tarnished surfaces in a cultural heritage context, and uleSIMS enables the tarnishing to be studied from its very earliest stages due to its high sensitivity (ppm-ppb) and surface specificity. We show that, uleSIMS can be used effectively to study the surface chemistry and aid the development of reference surfaces themselves. In particular, handling contaminants, surface dust, and residues from polishing are relatively easy to identify allowing them to be separated from the parts of the mass spectrum specific to the early stages of corrosion. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved
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