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New imaging technique reveals the atomic structure of nanocrystals
Date:2/18/2009

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. A new imaging technique developed by researchers at the University of Illinois overcomes the limit of diffraction and can reveal the atomic structure of a single nanocrystal with a resolution of less than one angstrom (less than one hundred-millionth of a centimeter).

Optical and electronic properties of small assemblages of atoms called quantum dots depend upon their electronic structure not just what's on the surface, but also what's inside. While scientists can calculate the electronic structure, they need to know where the atoms are positioned in order to do so accurately.

Getting this information, however, has proved to be a challenge for nanocrystals like quantum dots. Mapping out the positions of atoms requires clues provided by the diffraction pattern. But quantum dots are so small, the clues provided by diffraction alone are not enough.

By combining two sources of information images and diffraction patterns taken with the same electron microscope researchers at the U. of I. can achieve sub-angstrom resolution of structures that were not possible before.

"We show that for cadmium-sulfide nanocrystals, the improved image resolution allows a determination of their atomic structures," said Jian-Min (Jim) Zuo, a professor of materials science and engineering at the U. of I., and corresponding author of a paper that describes the high-resolution imaging system in the February issue of Nature Physics.

Images from electron microscopy can resolve individual atoms in a nanocrystal, but the atoms soon suffer radiation damage, which limits the length of observations. Patterns from X-ray diffraction can be used to determine the structure of large crystals, but not for nanocrystals, which are too small and don't diffract well.

To achieve sub-angstrom resolution, Zuo and colleagues developed a reiterative algorithm that processes and combines shape information from the low-resolution image and structure informa
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Contact: James E. Kloeppel
kloeppel@illinois.edu
217-244-1073
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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