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Open Access Publications from the University of California

HRTEM Imaging of Atoms at Sub-Angstrom Resolution

  • Author(s): O'Keefe, Michael A.
  • Allard, Lawrence F.
  • Blom, Douglas A.
  • et al.

John Cowley and his group at Arizona State University pioneered the use of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) for high-resolution imaging. Images were achieved three decades ago showing the crystal unit cell content at better than 4 Angstrom resolution. This achievement enabled researchers to pinpoint the positions of heavy atom columns within the unit cell. Lighter atoms appear as resolution is improved to sub-Angstrom levels. Currently, advanced microscopes can image the columns of the light atoms (carbon, oxygen, nitrogen) that are present in many complex structures, and even the lithium atoms present in some battery materials. Sub-Angstrom imaging, initially achieved by focal-series reconstruction of the specimen exit surface wave, will become commonplace for next-generation electron microscopes with CS-corrected lenses and monochromated electron beams. Resolution can be quantified in terms of peak separation and inter-peak minimum, but the limits imposed on the attainable resolution by the properties of the micro-scope specimen need to be considered. At extreme resolution the "size" of atoms can mean that they will not be resolved even when spaced farther apart than the resolution of the microscope.

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