Indexed on: 26 Jul '08Published on: 26 Jul '08Published in: Science
Seventy-five years after its invention, transmission electron microscopy has taken a great step forward with the introduction of aberration-corrected electron optics. An entirely new generation of instruments enables studies in condensed-matter physics and materials science to be performed at atomic-scale resolution. These new possibilities are meeting the growing demand of nanosciences and nanotechnology for the atomic-scale characterization of materials, nanosynthesized products and devices, and the validation of expected functions. Equipped with electron-energy filters and electron-energy-loss spectrometers, the new instruments allow studies not only of structure but also of elemental composition and chemical bonding. The energy resolution is about 100 milli-electron volts, and the accuracy of spatial measurements has reached a few picometers. However, understanding the results is generally not straightforward and only possible with extensive quantum-mechanical computer calculations.