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Comprehensive surface chemical analysis vocabulary and terminology available

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The vocabulary of surface chemical analysis

The loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter was the result of a miscommunication—the failure to recognize that information was needed in newton seconds and not as pound-force seconds. Although scientific advancement and technology reliability require clear and unambiguous communication, papers, reports, and vendor specifications frequently use terminology in inconsistent or incorrect ways. If you have ever wondered when to use “attenuation length” rather than “inelastic mean free path” or “dose” rather than “fluence,” then you will appreciate access to an authoritative vocabulary.

A comprehensive set of surface chemical analysis vocabulary and terminology is available at no cost in order to help minimize some of the confusion and inconsistencies present in describing the analysis of surfaces. Developed by the ISO Technical Committee 201, the vocabulary can be accessed through the websites of five educationally focused organizations, one of which is the AVS. The ISO TC201 committee hopes that by making the terminology freely available as a resource for researchers that editors, authors, and reviewers will help minimize the inconsistent and sometimes contradictory use of terminology in the literature.

The ISO TC201 vocabulary, developed with considerable input from AVS members, includes definitions of methods and important terminology for surface analysis, scanned probe methods, and data treatment methods such as multivariate analysis. The terminology is structured in two parts:

  • ISO18115-1:2013(E) – Surface chemical analysis – Vocabulary –Part 1, General terms and terms used in spectroscopy
  • ISO18115-1:2013(E) – Surface chemical analysis – Vocabulary –Part 2, Terms used in scanning-probe microscopy

Additional information, indices of terms, and access to the vocabulary can be found through any of the links below:


If you have suggestions for terms or concepts that need to be added to these documents, please send them to Alex Shard (

Digital Data Download

While not a new feature of SSS, the ability to download the digital data entered in the database is a feature worth highlighting. To download the digital data from the PDF of an SSS data record online, click on the blue accession number located in the caption of each figure.

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