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      Electron tomography at 2.4-ångström resolution

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          Abstract

          Transmission electron microscopy is a powerful imaging tool that has found broad application in materials science, nanoscience and biology. With the introduction of aberration-corrected electron lenses, both the spatial resolution and the image quality in transmission electron microscopy have been significantly improved and resolution below 0.5 ångströms has been demonstrated. To reveal the three-dimensional (3D) structure of thin samples, electron tomography is the method of choice, with cubic-nanometre resolution currently achievable. Discrete tomography has recently been used to generate a 3D atomic reconstruction of a silver nanoparticle two to three nanometres in diameter, but this statistical method assumes prior knowledge of the particle's lattice structure and requires that the atoms fit rigidly on that lattice. Here we report the experimental demonstration of a general electron tomography method that achieves atomic-scale resolution without initial assumptions about the sample structure. By combining a novel projection alignment and tomographic reconstruction method with scanning transmission electron microscopy, we have determined the 3D structure of an approximately ten-nanometre gold nanoparticle at 2.4-ångström resolution. Although we cannot definitively locate all of the atoms inside the nanoparticle, individual atoms are observed in some regions of the particle and several grains are identified in three dimensions. The 3D surface morphology and internal lattice structure revealed are consistent with a distorted icosahedral multiply twinned particle. We anticipate that this general method can be applied not only to determine the 3D structure of nanomaterials at atomic-scale resolution, but also to improve the spatial resolution and image quality in other tomography fields.

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          Most cited references 33

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          Extending the methodology of X-ray crystallography to allow imaging of micrometre-sized non-crystalline specimens

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            Electron tomography and holography in materials science.

            The rapid development of electron tomography, in particular the introduction of novel tomographic imaging modes, has led to the visualization and analysis of three-dimensional structural and chemical information from materials at the nanometre level. In addition, the phase information revealed in electron holograms allows electrostatic and magnetic potentials to be mapped quantitatively with high spatial resolution and, when combined with tomography, in three dimensions. Here we present an overview of the techniques of electron tomography and electron holography and demonstrate their capabilities with the aid of case studies that span materials science and the interface between the physical sciences and the life sciences.
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              Sub-ångstrom resolution using aberration corrected electron optics.

              Following the invention of electron optics during the 1930s, lens aberrations have limited the achievable spatial resolution to about 50 times the wavelength of the imaging electrons. This situation is similar to that faced by Leeuwenhoek in the seventeenth century, whose work to improve the quality of glass lenses led directly to his discovery of the ubiquitous "animalcules" in canal water, the first hints of the cellular basis of life. The electron optical aberration problem was well understood from the start, but more than 60 years elapsed before a practical correction scheme for electron microscopy was demonstrated, and even then the remaining chromatic aberrations still limited the resolution. We report here the implementation of a computer-controlled aberration correction system in a scanning transmission electron microscope, which is less sensitive to chromatic aberration. Using this approach, we achieve an electron probe smaller than 1 A. This performance, about 20 times the electron wavelength at 120 keV energy, allows dynamic imaging of single atoms, clusters of a few atoms, and single atomic layer 'rafts' of atoms coexisting with Au islands on a carbon substrate. This technique should also allow atomic column imaging of semiconductors, for detection of single dopant atoms, using an electron beam with energy below the damage threshold for silicon.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                March 2012
                March 21 2012
                March 2012
                : 483
                : 7390
                : 444-447
                Article
                10.1038/nature10934
                22437612
                © 2012

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