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Acc Chem Res. 2017 Jul 18;50(7):1502-1512. doi: 10.1021/acs.accounts.7b00123. Epub 2017 Jul 5.

Direct Visualization of Local Electromagnetic Field Structures by Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy.

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Institute of Engineering Innovation, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo , Tokyo 113-8656, Japan.
Nanostructures Research Laboratory, Japan Fine Ceramic Center , Nagoya 456-8587, Japan.
School of Physics and Astronomy, Monash University , Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia.
JEOL Ltd. , Tokyo 196-8558, Japan.
Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (ICMM-CSIC , Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz 3, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


The functional properties of materials and devices are critically determined by the electromagnetic field structures formed inside them, especially at nanointerface and surface regions, because such structures are strongly associated with the dynamics of electrons, holes and ions. To understand the fundamental origin of many exotic properties in modern materials and devices, it is essential to directly characterize local electromagnetic field structures at such defect regions, even down to atomic dimensions. In recent years, rapid progress in the development of high-speed area detectors for aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) with sub-angstrom spatial resolution has opened new possibilities to directly image such electromagnetic field structures at very high-resolution. In this Account, we give an overview of our recent development of differential phase contrast (DPC) microscopy for aberration-corrected STEM and its application to many materials problems. In recent years, we have developed segmented-type STEM detectors which divide the detector plane into 16 segments and enable simultaneous imaging of 16 STEM images which are sensitive to the positions and angles of transmitted/scattered electrons on the detector plane. These detectors also have atomic-resolution imaging capability. Using these segmented-type STEM detectors, we show DPC STEM imaging to be a very powerful tool for directly imaging local electromagnetic field structures in materials and devices in real space. For example, DPC STEM can clearly visualize the local electric field variation due to the abrupt potential change across a p-n junction in a GaAs semiconductor, which cannot be observed by normal in-focus bright-field or annular type dark-field STEM imaging modes. DPC STEM is also very effective for imaging magnetic field structures in magnetic materials, such as magnetic domains and skyrmions. Moreover, real-time imaging of electromagnetic field structures can now be realized through very fast data acquisition, processing, and reconstruction algorithms. If we use DPC STEM for atomic-resolution imaging using a sub-angstrom size electron probe, it has been shown that we can directly observe the atomic electric field inside atoms within crystals and even inside single atoms, the field between the atomic nucleus and the surrounding electron cloud, which possesses information about the atomic species, local chemical bonding and charge redistribution between bonded atoms. This possibility may open an alternative way for directly visualizing atoms and nanostructures, that is, seeing atoms as an entity of electromagnetic fields that reflect the intra- and interatomic electronic structures. In this Account, the current status of aberration-corrected DPC STEM is highlighted, along with some applications in real material and device studies.

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