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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.

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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.


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

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Correspondence to P. E. Batson.

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

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