Nature464, 571-574 (25 March 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature08879; Received 3 November 2009; Accepted 29 January 2010
Atom-by-atom structural and chemical analysis by annular dark-field electron microscopy
Ondrej L. Krivanek1, Matthew F. Chisholm2, Valeria Nicolosi3, Timothy J. Pennycook2,4, George J. Corbin1, Niklas Dellby1, Matthew F. Murfitt1, Christopher S. Own1, Zoltan S. Szilagyi1, Mark P. Oxley2,4, Sokrates T. Pantelides2,4 & Stephen J. Pennycook2,4
Nion Co., 1102 8th Street, Kirkland, Washington 98033, USA
Materials Science and Technology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6069, USA
Department of Materials, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PH, UK
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA
Correspondence to: Ondrej L. Krivanek1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to O.L.K. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Direct imaging and chemical identification of all the atoms in a material with unknown three-dimensional structure would constitute a very powerful general analysis tool. Transmission electron microscopy should in principle be able to fulfil this role, as many scientists including Feynman realized early on1. It images matter with electrons that scatter strongly from individual atoms and whose wavelengths are about 50 times smaller than an atom. Recently the technique has advanced greatly owing to the introduction of aberration-corrected optics2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. However, neither electron microscopy nor any other experimental technique has yet been able to resolve and identify all the atoms in a non-periodic material consisting of several atomic species. Here we show that annular dark-field imaging in an aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscope optimized for low voltage operation can resolve and identify the chemical type of every atom in monolayer hexagonal boron nitride that contains substitutional defects. Three types of atomic substitutions were found and identified: carbon substituting for boron, carbon substituting for nitrogen, and oxygen substituting for nitrogen. The substitutions caused in-plane distortions in the boron nitride monolayer of about 0.1Å magnitude, which were directly resolved, and verified by density functional theory calculations. The results demonstrate that atom-by-atom structural and chemical analysis of all radiation-damage-resistant atoms present in, and on top of, ultra-thin sheets has now become possible.