High contrast hollow-cone dark field transmission electron microscopy for nanocrystalline grain size quantification

Micron. 2010 Apr;41(3):177-82. doi: 10.1016/j.micron.2009.11.008. Epub 2009 Nov 24.


In this paper, we describe hollow-cone dark field (HCDF) transmission electron microscopy (TEM) imaging, with a slightly convergent beam, as an improved technique that is suitable to form high contrast micrographs for nanocrystalline grain size quantification. We also examine the various factors that influence the HCDF TEM image quality, including the conditions of microscopy (alignment, focus and objective aperture size), the properties of the materials imaged (e.g., atomic number, strain, defects), and the characteristics of the TEM sample itself (e.g., thickness, ion milling artifacts). Sample preparation was found to be critical and an initial thinning by wet etching of the substrate (for thin film samples) or tripod polishing (for bulk samples), followed by low-angle ion milling was found to be the preferred approach for preparing high-quality electron transparent samples for HCDF imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.