Breaking their own record from 2018, researchers from Cornell University have captured the best ever atomic resolution level image of atoms using electron ptychography technique. This image zoomed in 100 million times the crystal which is double the resolution of the image captured by the same researcher’s team in 2018 which earned them a Guinness World Record. Their work is so important for experimental material scientists that it will help designing materials for better devices in future. Electron ptychography technique involves shooting of electron beams at the sample just similar to the principle of transmission electron microscope. Based on the speckle pattern of huge number of electrons, AI algorithms can calculate exact positions of atoms in the sample.
Principle of transmission electron microscope is the same as normal light microscope instead it uses electrons instead of light, these electron beams have a very small wavelength of few picometers. With this low wavelength beam of electrons, the transmission electron microscope should be capable of taking actual image of an atom. But, lens aberrations and multiple scatterings of the electrons decrease the resolution. Researchers overcome this problem by using electron ptychography technique that uses coherent scattering of beams. This technique was limited due to the thickness of the sample and worked better for few atoms thick samples. In the latest research published in Science, it has been used for 3d sample and it proves that individual atoms can be identified in the sample using this technique. Using electron ptychography for samples containing hundreds of atomic layers make it more usable for material scientists, as they normally use materials of thickness 30-50nm.
After development of first electron microscope in 1931 by Ernst Ruska who won Nobel prize in 1986 for first design of electron microscope it took almost a century to reach to this milestone of imaging and identifying individual atom. With this latest advancement in electron microscopy, theoretically it is possible to locate and identify an individual atom. But that has not been done practically yet. Such high resolution electron microscopic imaging is of great importance for the future of advance electronic devices. As advancing in the field of computers we need chips better than silicon chips which are currently used. This technique will help us shape the future of devices, especially in the field of batteries this technique will be helpful in developing batteries with more storage capacity and longer time yet being safe. Yet there is still a long way to go until we see its results in the technology we use like our mobile phones and laptops.
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