Field-induced electron emission offers the best performance point electron source for electron microscopes. Herewith we report a new cold field-emission point electron source utilizing a nanoneedle made of lanthanum hexaboride (LaB6) and its implementation in a spherical aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope (TEM). A sub-ångstrom resolution of 0.96 Å has been obtained with the TEM operated at an acceleration voltage of 60 kV and a smaller energy spread was also observed compared with the contemporary W(310) electron source. In particular, the LaB6 nanoneedle cold field-emission electron source required no thermal flashing for continuous operation of extended hours (>100 hours) while exhibiting and sustaining a high stability in emission current (<1%). We attribute the excellent performance of the LaB6 nanoneedle electron source to (i) a low work function of LaB6; (ii) excellent alignment of the nanoneedle emitter by the electron and ion dual-beam processing with nanoscale precision and (iii) robustness of the nanometric structure that suppressed mechanical vibrations of the LaB6 emitter even in a high electric field. This new LaB6 nanoneedle cold field-emission electron source enables stable high-resolution imaging in TEM and it will also benefit cryogenic electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, electron beam lithography, and other electron beam technologies.

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A stable LaB6 nanoneedle field-emission electron source for atomic resolution imaging with a transmission electron microscope
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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2022.06.003