Breaking the spherical and chromatic aberration barrier in transmission electron microscopy

Ultramicroscopy. 2005 Feb;102(3):209-14. doi: 10.1016/j.ultramic.2004.09.013.


Since the invention of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) in 1932 (Z. Physik 78 (1932) 318) engineering improvements have advanced system resolutions to levels that are now limited only by the two fundamental aberrations of electron lenses; spherical and chromatic aberration (Z. Phys. 101 (1936) 593). Since both aberrations scale with the dimensions of the lens, research resolution requirements are pushing the designs to lenses with only a few mm space in the pole-piece gap for the specimen. This is in conflict with the demand for more and more space at the specimen, necessary in order to enable novel techniques in TEM, such as He-cooled cryo electron microscopy, 3D-reconstruction through tomography (Science 302 (2003) 1396) TEM in gaseous environments, or in situ experiments (Nature 427 (2004) 426). All these techniques will only be able to achieve Angstrom resolution when the aberration barriers have been overcome. The spherical aberration barrier has recently been broken by introducing spherical aberration correctors (Nature 392 (1998) 392, 418 (2002) 617), but the correction of the remaining chromatic aberrations have proved to be too difficult for the present state of technology (Optik 57 (1980) 73). Here we present an alternative and successful method to eliminate the chromatic blur, which consists of monochromating the TEM beam (Inst. Phys. Conf. Ser. 161 (1999) 191). We show directly interpretable resolutions well below 1A for the first time, which is significantly better than any TEM operating at 200 KV has reached before.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Lenses*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission / instrumentation*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission / methods
  • Optics and Photonics*