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Published April 9, 2010 | public
Journal Article

Four-Dimensional Electron Microscopy


The discovery of the electron over a century ago and the realization of its dual character have given birth to one of the two most powerful imaging instruments: the electron microscope. The electron microscope's ability to resolve three-dimensional (3D) structures on the atomic scale is continuing to affect different fields, including materials science and biology. In this Review, we highlight recent developments and inventions made by introducing the fourth dimension of time in electron microscopy. Today, ultrafast electron microscopy (4D UEM) enables a resolution that is 10 orders of magnitude better than that of conventional microscopes, which are limited by the video-camera rate of recording. After presenting the central concept involved, that of single-electron stroboscopic imaging, we discuss prototypical applications, which include the visualization of complex structures when unfolding on different length and time scales. The developed UEM variant techniques are several, and here we illucidate convergent-beam and near-field imaging, as well as tomography and scanning-pulse microscopy. We conclude with current explorations in imaging of nanomaterials and biostructures and an outlook on possible future directions in space-time, 4D electron microscopy.

Additional Information

© 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science. In the course of developments at the Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology (UST), I have enjoyed the scholarly discussions with and enthusiasm of J. M. Thomas of Cambridge University, the fruit of which resulted in his overview articles (40, 51–54) and our joint monograph (12) on 4D EM. The dedication and hard work of members of the UST Center made possible the story told here. I particularly wish to acknowledge the effort of D. Shorokhov in helpful discussion and in manuscript preparation. This research was carried out with support from NSF and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in the Physical Biology Center for UST supported at Caltech by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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