Environmental transmission electron microscopy (ETEM) enables the study of catalytic and other reaction processes as they occur with Angstrom-level resolution. The microscope used is a dedicated ETEM (Titan ETEM, FEI Company) with a differential pumping vacuum system and apertures, allowing aberration corrected high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) imaging to be performed with gas pressures up to 20 mbar in the sample area and with significant advantages over membrane-type E-cell holders. The effect on image resolution of varying the nitrogen gas pressure, electron beam current density and total beam current were measured using information limit (Young's fringes) on a standard cross grating sample and from silicon crystal lattice imaging. As expected, increasing gas pressure causes a decrease in HRTEM image resolution. However, the total electron beam current also causes big changes in the image resolution (lower beam current giving better resolution), whereas varying the beam current density has almost no effect on resolution, a result that has not been reported previously. This behavior is seen even with zero-loss filtered imaging, which we believe shows that the drop in resolution is caused by elastic scattering at gas ions created by the incident electron beam. Suitable conditions for acquiring high resolution images in a gas environment are discussed. Lattice images at nitrogen pressures up to 16 mbar are shown, with 0.12 nm information transfer at 4 mbar.

This paper was originally published in Ultramicroscopy, 12, Pages 46–51.

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