2021 Advanced Course: Advanced X-Ray Diffraction Methods for Coatings: Strain, Defects and Deformation Analysis of Thin Films

Wednesday, 24 November to Friday, 26 November 2021


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 characterisation 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


Please register using this on-line form.

Please note that payment is now required upon registration using the PayOnLine platform, which accepts major credit cards, PayPal and Twint. Course fees being paid directly by an EPFL laboratory may be paid by account transfer – please contact Carey Sargent if you are an EPFL student and prefer this method of payment. Tuition, lunches and coffee breaks are included in the fees.

PhD students from EPFL, ETH Zurich, PSI, Empa and CSEM: CHF 360.-

Other academic participants: CHF 460.-

All other participants: CHF 1,500.-

The course is taught in English and is limited to a maximum of 16 participants.


Empa, Dübendorf


Prof. Alex Dommann

Prof. Antonia Neels

Dr. Aurelio Borzì

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.

Participation Fees

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 lunches and coffee breaks. Additional VAT may apply. 


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

Lecturer Biographies

Alex Dommann

Alex Dommann obtained his Ph.D. at ETH Zurich after graduating in solid-state physics and crystallography at the University of Zurich.

He was a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology, a research scientist at the Paul Scherrer Institute and at ETH Zurich’s Laboratorium für Festkörperphysik. In 1991, he was appointed Professor of materials research at the Interstate University of Applied Sciences Buchs, where he was Scientific Head of the Institute for Microsystems from 1997—2004. In 2005 he was appointed CTO of the CSEM, Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique at Neuchâtel. In July 2013 he was appointed Head of Department “Materials meet Life” at Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. His research concentrates on the structuring, coating and characterization of thin films, MEMS and bio-interfaces. He made significant contributions to all aspects of thin films characterization and aging of MEMS. More than 10 years of experience in space projects. His studies led to a variety of new semiconductor structuring and coating processes. His contributions have opened up exciting possibilities for future research in the area of semiconductor and MEMS structuring, thin films and Bio-coatings.

He is a member of different national and international technical and scientific committees.

Antonia Neels

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 heads 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 focusses her X-ray analytical research towards bio-medical questions.

Since 2018, Antonia Neels is appointed Titular Professor at the Faculty of Mathematics, Science and Medicine at the University of Fribourg.  She gives courses related to ‘Applied Crystallography’ at different Swiss universities and has published more than 240 academic research papers.

Aurelio Borzì

Aurelio Borzì obtained his Ph.D. at “Universitè Bourgogne Franche-Comté” in Besançon and CEA-Leti in Grenoble (France) in 2020, after graduating in Materials Chemistry at the University of Catania (Italy). Since 2020 he has been a postdoc researcher at the Center for X-ray Analytics, at Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology.

In his Ph.D., he focused on the fabrication and performance characterization of acoustic filters to be implemented in the RF front-end of the 5G network. Currently, his research concentrates on the characterization of the structure of the materials using X-ray related methods, such as powder X-ray diffraction (XRPD), high-resolution X-ray diffraction (HRXRD), and X-ray reflectometry (XRR). He applies these methods in the study of crystalline quality of thin films with different microstructural features from quasi-amorphous to epitaxial films and studies the correlation of MEMS-microfabrication processes to materials microstructure degradation and the improvement of BIO-coatings performances. He has been a member of the Swiss Crystallographic Society since 2020.