Our new detector records the full position-momentum phase space for all electrons scattered through a sample, and ptychographic reconstruction algorithms solve the samples atomic structure. Our algorithms inversely solve for the multiple scattering of the electron beam and overcome the lens aberrations. For the first time, the resolution is set by the thermal vibrations of the atoms themselves, and we can see the stiffness of bonds from the anisotropy of the thermal blur

Electron microscopes use electrons with wavelengths of a few picometers, potentially capable of imaging individual atoms at a resolution ultimately set by the intrinsic size of an atom. Lens aberrations and multiple scattering of electrons in the sample means image resolution is 3 to 10 worse. Here, by inversely solving the 90-year-old multiple scattering problem using electron ptychography, we reduce the instrumental blur to 16 picometers -smaller than the thermal fluctuations of the atoms, and a new world record. Furthermore, electron ptychography can potentially reach a sub-nanometer depth resolution and locate atomic dopants in all three dimensions with only a single projection measurement.

For biological samples, the resolution is limited by the electron dose on the sample. Here, as all electrons in the beam are used, our method enables 2-3x higher resolution for the same dose than conventional imaging, and reduces the number of tilts needed for 3D imaging of whole cells tenfold.

Tags: Microscopy, Atoms, Imaging, STEM, Highest Resolution Image