2023 Advanced X-Ray Diffraction Methods for Coatings: Strain, Defects and Deformation Analysis of Thin Films

22  – 24 November, 2023 / Empa Dübendorf


Today, coatings are used in many applications for decorative or / and functional purposes. In functional coatings, the surface properties of the substrates such as adhesion, corrosion or wear resistance can be changed. In semiconductor device fabrication, the coating adds completely new properties such as electrical conductivity, magnetic or optical responses. This course uses X-ray Diffraction techniques (XRD) to investigate the structural properties of coatings obtained by different deposition methods.

Understanding the structure of thin films will improve their fabrication. After introducing basic thin film and HR-XRD characterization methods, fundamental theory and limitations will be discussed including examples of films in applications and how their structures influence characteristics.

Real samples will be measured. In-house protocols will be presented for establishing reproducible and reliable measurements, and for interpreting stress/strain and materials defect levels.


  • Introduction to different X-Ray techniques
  • Relationships between physical and structural properties
  • High resolution X-Ray techniques
  • Coherent and non-coherent scattering
  • Texture and stress
  • Coatings case studies
  • Examples of successful technology transfers using X-ray techniques

Registration and participation fees

Registration is possible through the form on this page. Please contact Carey Sargent with any questions.

The fee for the course is CHF360 for doctoral students from EPFL, ETHZ, PSI, Empa and CSEM and CHF460 for doctoral students from other academic institutions and other academic researchers. The registration fee for all other participants is CHF1500. The fee includes tuition, lunches and coffee breaks.


Empa, Dübendorf


Prof. Dr. Alex Dommann

Prof. Dr. Antonia Neels

Dr. Sabrina Thomä

Who should attend

Industrial and academic engineers, PhD students and researchers.

The number of participants is limited to a maximum of 16.

This course may be validated for 1 ECTS credit in the doctoral programmes of EPFL and ETH Zurich, after acceptance by the corresponding institution. In this case, full attendance and a final examination will be requested.


Travel and accommodation should be reserved and paid for directly by the participants.

Lecturer Biographies

Prof. em. Dr. Alex Dommann

Prof. em. Dr. Alex Dommann obtained his PhD in Solid State Physics at ETH Zurich in 1988 after graduating in solid-state physics and crystallography at the University of Zurich.

Alex Dommann is Professor emeritus at the University of Bern and member of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Science (SATW). He headed the Department « Materials meet Life » at Empa between 2013 until January 2023. Before this, he was CTO of CSEM, Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique, Neuchâtel. His research concentrates on the surface analysis, bio surface interactions, structuring, coating and characterization of thin films and MEMS structures. He is member of different national and international committees and teaches Biomaterials, Crystallography and MEMS technology at different Swiss universities and has published more than 180 papers in the fields of thin films, coatings, MEMS, reliability and material characterization.

Prof. Dr. Antonia Neels

Prof. Dr. Antonia Neels studied chemistry at the Humboldt University of Berlin (D) and obtained a PhD from the University of Neuchâtel (CH). After a postdoctoral position at the Texas A & M University she has been appointed Maître Assistant at the University of Neuchâtel in 1997. She has been leading the XRD laboratory at the IMT EPFL and CSEM from 2006 until 2014. In 2014, she graduated from the EPFL / HEC Lausanne and received an Executive MBA in Management of Technology MoT. Since July 2014, she has headed the Center for X-ray Analytics at Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (http://www.empa.ch/x-ray).

Her interests are focused on new materials, their fascinating structures leading to new physical properties and applications. She is experienced in the development and application of X-ray based analytical methods and as a part of Empa’s department ‘Materials meet Life’ she focuses her X-ray analytical research towards bio-medical questions.

Since 2018, Neels has been Titular Professor at Department of Chemistry of the Faculty of Mathematics, Science and Medicine at the University of Fribourg where she lectures to Master students ‘Crystallography, crystal growth and technology’. She has published more than 300 papers, and is active in national and international crystallographic associations and commissions.

Dr. Sabrina Thomä

Dr. Sabrina Thomä studied Chemistry (BSc) and Polymer Science (MSc) at the University of Bayreuth (D) and obtained a PhD from the RWTH Aachen University (D) in 2023. Her research so far has focused on structure-property relationships at nanoparticle-interfaces. Thereby, various materials such as heterogenous nanostructured catalysts employed in organic synthesis and in fuel cells, as well as aqueous iron oxide nanoparticle dispersions were investigated. Owing to a three-month research stay at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) granted by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) and several granted beamtimes (Diamond Lightsource, ESRF, Desy), she is well trained in conducting X-ray diffraction experiments (PDF, WAXS, SAXS, crystal truncation rod) at large-scale facilities. Further, she could also gather some first experience in teaching by supervising lab courses (Inorganic Chemistry) and tutorials (Crystallography and Employing X-rays for characterization).