Among the first successful applications of AES was the characterization of grain boundaries and other phases that were exposed via in-situ fracture of metals to provide the ability to detect materials that had segregated to these internal interfaces.

Corrosion and wear, and coatings to prevent corrosion and wear are often studied by XPS to provide quantitative chemical state information and by TOF-SIMS to provide molecular identification if organic materials are involved. AES is often used to characterize precipitates exposed in fractured metallurgical samples, corrosion processes and surface coatings resulting from industrial processing of metals.

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