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Electric field imaging of single atoms:Associate Professor Naoya Shibata, Researcher Takehito Seki, Professor Yuichi Ikuhara, Department of Institute of Engineering Innovation, and other researchers.

In scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), single atoms can be imaged by detecting electrons scattered through high angles using post-specimen, annular-type detectors. Recently, it has been shown that the atomic-scale electric field of both the positive atomic nuclei and the surrounding negative electrons within crystalline materials can be probed by atomic-resolution differential phase contrast STEM. Here we demonstrate the real-space imaging of the (projected) atomic electric field distribution inside single Au atoms, using sub-Å spatial resolution STEM combined with a high-speed segmented detector. We directly visualize that the electric field distribution (blurred by the sub-Å size electron probe) drastically changes within the single Au atom in a shape that relates to the spatial variation of total charge density within the atom. Atomic-resolution electric field mapping with single-atom sensitivity enables us to examine their detailed internal and boundary structures.




Nature Communications: