The main inelastic scattering mechanisms are:
i) Phonon excitation (heat).
ii) Plasmon excitation (valence electrons).
iii) Single electron excitation (inner and outer shell scattering).
iv) Direct radiation losses (Bremsstrahlung radiation due to deceleration of the electron beam in the Coulomb field of an atom).
v) Excitation of conducting electrons leading to secondary electron emissions.
The ground-state energy of an inner-shell electron is typically some hundreds to thousands of electron volts (eV) below the Fermi level of the solid and the unoccupied electrons states lies only above the Fermi level. When an accelerating electron in the electron beam in EMs interacts with the materials, the inner-shell electrons can be excited and transit to an excited state if the electrons absorb an energy which is equal to or greater than its binding energy. In this case, the accelerating electron in the electron beam loses the same amount of energy and is scattered at an angle. However, these unstable excited electrons will lose its excess energy quickly, producing “byproducts” such as X-rays and Auger electrons. This process is called de-excitation process.
Figure 3960 shows angular distribution of scattered electrons, with inner-shell ionization losses, as a function of scattering angle in EMs.
Figure 3960. Inner-shell ionization losses.