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Fulfilling Feynman’s dream: “Make the electron microscope 100 times better”—Are we there yet?

  • Stephen J. Pennycook (a1)


In his famous 1959 lecture “There’s plenty of room at the bottom,” Richard Feynman put out this challenge: “Is there no way to make the electron microscope more powerful?” He called for “improving the electron microscope by a hundred times,” which, given that the resolution then was about 10 Å, meant he was calling for a resolution in the range of 0.1 Å. Today’s aberration-corrected microscopes have come a long way, achieving a resolution of around 0.5 Å. This has enormously improved our ability to see atomic arrangements in crystals, measure ferroelectric displacements, and even determine valence and spin states with electron energy-loss spectroscopy. However, there remain many structures crucial to materials properties that we cannot yet see. Continuing the road toward Feynman’s goal would bring these structures to light, with yet more dramatic impacts on the entire field of materials science.



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