Sub-ångstrom resolution using aberration corrected electron optics

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 05 September 2002


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 electrons1. 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 demonstrated2, 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 microscope3, which is less sensitive to chromatic aberration. Using this approach, we achieve an electron probe smaller than 1 Å. 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.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Atomic resolution image of a Au island on an amorphous carbon substrate.
Figure 2: Selected frames from a 10 frames s-1 acquisition of the interaction of two Au atoms.
Figure 3: An analysis of the image size of a single Au atom.
Figure 4: Summary of results for the {110} projection of Ge30Si70.


  1. 1

    Scherzer, O. The theoretical resolution limit of the electron microscope. J. Appl. Phys. 20, 20–29 (1949)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Haider, M., Uhlemann, S., Schwan, E., Kabius, B. & Urban, K. Electron microscopy image enhanced. Nature 392, 768–769 (1998)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Crewe, A. V., Isaacson, M. & Johnson, D. A simple scanning electron microscope. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 40, 241–246 (1969)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Voyles, P. M., Muller, D. A., Grazul, J. L., Citrin, P. H. & Gossmann, H.-J. L. Atomic-scale imaging of individual dopant atoms and clusters in highly n-doped bulk Si. Nature 416, 826–829 (2002)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Crewe, A. V., Wall, J. & Langmore, J. Visibility of a single atom. Science 168, 1338–1340 (1970)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Pennycook, S. J. & Boatner, L. A. Chemically sensitive structure-imaging with a scanning transmission electron microscope. Nature 336, 565–567 (1988)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Xu, P., Kirkland, E. J., Silcox, J. & Keyse, R. High resolution imaging of silicon (111) using a 100 KeV STEM. Ultramicroscopy 32, 93–102 (1990)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Crewe, A. V., Isaacson, M. & Johnson, D. A high resolution electron spectrometer for use in transmission scanning microscopy. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 42, 411–420 (1971)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Batson, P. E. Simultaneous STEM imaging and electron-energy-loss-spectroscopy with atomic-column sensitivity. Nature 366, 727–728 (1993)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Muller, D. A., Tzou, Y., Raj, R. & Silcox, J. High resolution EELS at grain boundaries. Nature 366, 725–727 (1993)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Browning, N. D., Chisholm, M. F. & Pennycook, S. J. Atomic resolution analysis using a scanning transmission electron microscope. Nature 366, 143–146 (1993)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Dellby, N., Krivanek, O. L., Nellist, P. D., Batson, P. E. & Lupini, A. R. Progress in aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy. J. Electron. Microsc. 50, 177–185 (2001)

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Batson, P. E. Structural and electronic characterization of a dissociated 60° dislocation in GeSi. Phys. Rev. B 61, 16633–16641 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Ronchi, V. Forty years of history of a grating interferometer. Appl. Opt. 3, 437–450 (1964)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Zhang, Z. Y. & Lagally, M. G. Atomistic processes in the early stages of thin film growth. Science 276, 377–383 (1997)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Kirkland, E. J. Advanced Computing in Electron Microscopy (Plenum, New York, 1998)

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Kawasaki, T. et al. Development of a 1 MV field emission transmission electron microscope. J. Electron. Microsc. 49, 711–718 (2000)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    O'Keeffe, M. A. et al. Sub-ångstrom high resolution transmission electron microscopy at 300 keV. Ultramicroscopy 89, 215–241 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Zuo, J., Kim, Y., O'Keeffe, M. & Spence, J. C. H. Direct observation of d holes and Cu-Cu bonding in Cu2O. Nature 401, 49–56 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Batson, P. E. Symmetry selected electron energy loss scattering in diamond. Phys. Rev. Lett. 70, 1822–1825 (1993)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


O.L.K. and N.D. acknowledge partial support for this project from the IBM Corporation.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to P. E. Batson.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Batson, P., Dellby, N. & Krivanek, O. Sub-ångstrom resolution using aberration corrected electron optics. Nature 418, 617–620 (2002).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter for a daily update on COVID-19 science.
Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing