5 Important Roles of ToF SIMS Analysis in the Glass Industry

Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) analysis has gained popularity in various industries. However, many people still don’t understand its role in the glass industry and how it can help them identify contaminants in their products. Let’s look at the basics of ToF-SIMS and how it works in the glass industry to identify contaminants that cause defects and strengthen glass products.

glass cube

1.    ToF-SIMS Analysis Supports Quality Control of Glass Products

For quality control purposes, ToF-SIMS can help to identify surface contaminants with ppm/femtomole detection limits in most cases. ToF-SIMS can accurately identify these elemental and molecular contaminants with a high degree of accuracy. While ToF-SIMS analysis is generally not quantitative due to matrix effects; relative comparisons among similar samples allow for “semi-quantitative” analysis. ToF-SIMS can provide you with the information you need to determine if your glass product meets specifications for processing or finished goods.

Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry analysis is essential in monitoring and examining surface contaminants in glass and other types of ceramics. It is highly sensitive, accurate, and provides a high level of selectivity. ToF-SIMS can detect low levels of impurities such as arsenic and metals, and tin. ToF-SIMS analysis has become a standard part of quality control in the glass industry.

ToF-SIMS helps ensure that lower limits for specific elements are adhered to during production. The ability to scan multiple locations on a single sample also allows for process monitoring—and offers an opportunity for improvements before an issue becomes severe enough to affect customer satisfaction or product performance. It also helps manufacturers understand precisely how their equipment performs over time to know when it needs repair or replacement.

2.    Supports Research and Development of Glass Products

The role of ToF-SIMS analysis in glass research and development can be highly effective for determining whether a particular type of glass contains certain materials. For example, suppose an organization is interested in creating an entirely new kind of glass and wants to use it for a specific purpose. In that case, ToF-SIMS analysis can help confirm the elemental composition of the new glass and whether or not that glass would serve its intended purpose.

If your sample meets specifications, you can develop it further developed. Otherwise, you have to make adjustments based on the analysis report. ToF-SIMS instrumentation is highly specialized and relatively expensive. Therefore, many companies opt to send their samples out for testing to a reputable laboratory instead of purchasing their instrumentation.

3.    Characterization of Ancient Opaque Glass

ToF-SIMS is a powerful analytical tool used to help characterize ancient glass. ToF SIMS analysis has helped characterize the ancient opaque glass industry and determine the elemental composition and trace elements in opaque glass from late Roman, medieval, early Islamic, Byzantine, and Sassanian archaeological sites. The origins of glass samples included;

  • Greece for Byzantine glasses
  • Egypt and Syria for Roman glasses
  • Transcaucasia for Sassanian glasses
  • Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey for early Islamic glasses.

Chemical fingerprinting is an essential analytical tool in archaeology. Chemical fingerprinting is used to identify the manufacturing techniques by comparing chemical compositions with known artifacts or localities. In addition, chemical fingerprinting can help to establish date ranges that can be used with archaeological data, such as associated ceramics or coins for absolute chronology, if necessary.

As a result, the ToF SIMS analysis helps determine trade routes and networks, mainly where large numbers of identical pieces are in related sites. Trace element characterization also helps to elucidate possible sources and development of raw materials involved in fine pottery and glass production during specific periods on some well-known archaeological sites.

4.    Analysis of Coatings on Spectacle Lenses

Some spectacle lenses have coatings to enhance physical properties such as reflective capabilities and hardness. However, it’s crucial to accurately analyze the lens coating to understand whether the coating on the lenses will serve its intended purpose. Modern advances in ToF-SIMS make ToF-SIMS a powerful tool for exploring these coatings. The detailed analysis enables manufacturers to decide which parameters are most important when choosing a particular type of coating for their lenses.

The detailed ToF SIMS characterization can also help screen for contaminants such as cerium that could cause issues with softening or cracking of protective glasses during cleaning and other processes leading up to wear testing. ToF SIMS coating analysis can help identify specific features of the coating on the surface of the spectacle lenses, such as;

  • Its thickness
  • Its purity level
  • Its chemical state
  • The coating material

ToF-SIMS can also tell you how much material is present, its distribution, and phase. It can also tell you about certain defects that exist. The ToF SIMS analysis on the surface coating of the lenses before a customer has received a final product will help improve product standards while increasing customer satisfaction levels.

5.    Tracking Glass Corrosion

ToF-SIMS analysis is a powerful tool; however, many people have not widely adopted it for glass analysis. One area where ToF-SIMS could potentially be valuable is for tracking corrosion in high glass applications. Corrosion occurs when environmental elements penetrate glass and cause structural damage. It is particularly damaging because it can happen beneath glass surfaces. Detecting corrosion early on is one way to help mitigate future issues with a glass structure.


It is a fact that ToF SIMS analysis can help identify glass compositions. However, a newer application for ToF SIMS analysis in studying glass composition at a molecular level: identifying impurities or additives added during manufacture. Such impurities and additives can even be more useful in corporations with other types of elemental imaging, such as x-ray fluorescence (XRF) or energy-dispersive XRF.

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