MAPEX Research Highlights

Atomic electric fields revealed by a quantum mechanical approach to electron picodiffraction

Knut Müller, Florian F. Krause, Armand Béché, Marco Schowalter, Vincent Galioit, Stefan Löffler, Johan Verbeeck, Josef Zweck, Peter Schattschneider and Andreas Rosenauer.

Nature Communications (2014) 5, 5653.


By focusing electrons on probes with a diameter of 50 pm, aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) is currently crossing the border to probing subatomic details. A major challenge is the measurement of atomic electric fields using differential phase contrast (DPC) microscopy, traditionally exploiting the concept of a field-induced shift of diffraction patterns. Here we present a simplified quantum theoretical interpretation of DPC. This enables us to calculate the momentum transferred to the STEM probe from diffracted intensities recorded on a pixel array instead of conventional segmented bright-field detectors. The methodical development yielding atomic electric field, charge and electron density is performed using simulations for binary ​GaN as an ideal model system. We then present a detailed experimental study of ​SrTiO3 yielding atomic electric fields, validated by comprehensive simulations. With this interpretation and upgraded instrumentation, STEM is capable of quantifying atomic electric fields and high-contrast imaging of light atoms.

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