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Auger Electron Spectroscopy

When a vacancy is formed in one of the inner shells of an atom, it may be filled by either a radiative (x ray) or nonradiative (Auger) process. In most instances nature chooses the Auger process. Only when the transition energy exceeds roughly 10 keV is x-ray emission predominant. Thus, the fluorescence yield is greater than 0.5 only for vacancies in the K shells of atoms whose Z > 30, and in a few cases in the L shell for very heavy elements. (The fluorescence yield ω is defined as equal to the number of times a vacancy in a given shell is filled by a radiative process divided by the total number of times that hole is filled.) Why, then, are x rays well known even to the man in the street, while the understanding of the Auger processes has been until recently restricted to the specialist? The answer lies simply in the ease of measurement. X rays are a highly penetrating radiation, while Auger electrons have only a small mean free path in solids.

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