Simultaneous Nanoscale Imaging of Surface and Bulk Atoms

September 23, 2009
Uranium single atoms (circled) and small crystallites on a carbon support imaged simultaneously using a scanning probe to produce forward scattering through the sample (top) and backward scattering emerging from the surface (bottom). Center panel shows superimposition of the two in red (bulk) and green (surface). Atoms not seen in the lower image are on the bottom surface of the support. Source: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Uranium single atoms (circled) and small crystallites on a carbon support imaged simultaneously using a scanning probe to produce forward scattering through the sample (top) and backward scattering emerging from the surface (bottom). Center panel shows superimposition of the two in red (bulk) and green (surface). Atoms not seen in the lower image are on the bottom surface of the support. Source: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, in collaboration with researchers from Hitachi High Technologies Corp., have demonstrated a new scanning electron microscope capable of selectively imaging single atoms on the top surface of a specimen while a second, simultaneous imaging signal shows atoms throughout the sample’s depth. This new tool, located at Brookhaven Lab’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), will greatly expand scientists’ ability to understand and ultimately control chemical reactions, such as those of catalysts in energy-conversion devices.
Like all scanning electron microscopes, the new tool probes a sample with an electron beam focused to a tiny spot and detects so-called secondary electrons emitted by the sample to reveal its surface structure and topography. Though this technique has been a workhorse of surface imaging in industrial and academic laboratories for decades, its resolution has left much to be desired because of imperfect focusing due to lens aberrations.
Using a newly developed spherical aberration corrector, the new tool corrects these distortions to create a smaller probe with significantly increased brightness.
The new device also employs specialized electron optics to channel the emitted secondary electrons to the detector. The result is a fourfold improvement in resolution to below one tenth of a nanometer — and thus, the ability to image single atoms.
Additional detectors, located below the sample, detect electrons transmitted through the sample, revealing details about the entire structure at the exact instant the “shutter” snapped to record each pixel of the surface image. This simultaneous imaging allows the scientists to correlate information in the two images to understand precisely what is happening on the surface and throughout the sample at the same time.
Because of its extreme sensitivity, the new microscope must be kept isolated from a range of environmental effects such as variations in temperature, mechanical vibrations, and electromagnetic fields. Even the slightest waft of air could cause distortions in the images.

Original publication:
Zhu Y., Inada H., Nakamura K., Wall J.: Imaging single atoms using secondary electrons with an aberration-corrected microscope. Nat Mater. 2009 Sep 20. [Epub ahead of print]

http://www.bnl.gov

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Fellow for the Microscopy Society of America

Juni 26, 2009

Yimei Zhu, a scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been elected the inaugural Fellow of the Microscopy Society of America, an affiliate of the American Institute of Physics and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Limited to a small fraction of members, the designation of Fellow recognizes senior distinguished members of the society who have made significant contributions to the advancement of the science and practice of microscopy. Zhu will formally be awarded the society’s first fellowship at its annual meeting in Richmond, Virginia, US, to be held in July. His citation reads: “For outstanding and innovative development and implementation of advanced electron microscopy techniques including quantitative diffraction, imaging, spectroscopy, and phase retrieval methods in understanding superconducting, ferromagnetic, and strongly correlated materials.”
www.bnl.gov

Yimei Zhu, inaugural fellow of the Microscopy Society of America

Yimei Zhu, inaugural fellow of the Microscopy Society of America (photo: Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory)