Aberration correction of the scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) has made it possible to reach probe sizes close to 1 Å at 60 keV, an operating energy that avoids direct knock-on damage in materials consisting of light atoms such as B, C, N and O. Although greatly reduced, some radiation damage is still present at this energy, and this limits the maximum usable electron dose. Elemental analysis by electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) is then usefully supplemented by annular dark field (ADF) imaging, for which the signal is larger. Because of its strong Z dependence, ADF allows the chemical identification of individual atoms, both heavy and light, and it can also record the atomic motion of individual heavy atoms in considerable detail. We illustrate these points by ADF images and EELS of nanotubes containing nanopods filled with single atoms of Er, and by ADF images of graphene with impurity atoms.

This paper was originally published in Ultramicroscopy (2010) 110, 935–945.

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