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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Enhanced phase contrast transfer using ptychography combined with a pre-specimen phase plate in a scanning transmission electron microscope


The ability to image light elements in both crystalline and noncrystalline materials at near atomic resolution with an enhanced contrast is highly advantageous to understand the structure and properties of a wide range of beam sensitive materials including biological specimens and molecular hetero-structures. This requires the imaging system to have an efficient phase contrast transfer at both low and high spatial frequencies. In this work we introduce a new phase contrast imaging method in a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) using a pre-specimen phase plate in the probe forming aperture, combined with a fast pixelated detector to record diffraction patterns at every probe position, and phase reconstruction using ptychography. The phase plate significantly enhances the contrast transfer of low spatial frequency information, and ptychography maximizes the extraction of the phase information at all spatial frequencies. In addition, the STEM probe with the presence of the phase plate retains its atomic resolution, allowing simultaneous incoherent Z-contrast imaging to be obtained along with the ptychographic phase image. An experimental image of Au nanoparticles on a carbon support shows high contrast for both materials. Multislice image simulations of a DNA molecule shows the capability of imaging soft matter at low dose conditions, which implies potential applications of low dose imaging of a wide range of beam sensitive materials.

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