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Seeing and  Identifying Atoms in Complex Materials

By directing an electron beam at a material, it is possible to image the structure of the material with a resolution that is limited by the size of the beam. In addition, the chemical specificity of the sample can be determined by making careful measurements of the loss of energy that the electrons experience in passing through the material.  These electron microscopes have proven to be invaluable  for allowing us to peer into the structure of materials at the nanoscale.  Now, a new electron microscope has been developed that utilizes a sufficiently small beam that it can generate images of the structure and the chemical composition of materials with atomic resolution. Such an instrument will allow for materials analysis with unprecedented precision and allow for the development of new materials and devices.

Atomic-scale maps of various elements in a complex material. The map at the bottom right combines the three other maps to show the relative arrangements of the atom columns.

[CNS Investigator: Silcox and Muller – Nanocharacterization Thrust, Center for Nanoscale Systems, Cornell University]

For additional information see:
D. A. Muller, L. Fitting-Kourkoutis, M. Murfitt, J. H. Song, H. Y. Hwang, J. Silcox,  N. Dellby, O. L. Krivanek, “Atomic-Scale Chemical Imaging by Aberration-Corrected Microscopy,” Science 319, 1073-1076  (2008).

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