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We define a measure for the accuracy of tomographic reconstruction in atom probe tomography, named here the spatial error index. We demonstrate that this index can be used to compare rigorously the spatial accuracy of various different approaches to the calculation of tomographic reconstruction. This is useful, for example, to evaluate the performance of alternate tomographic reconstruction approaches, and ensures that the comparisons are independent of individual data quality or other instrumental parameters. We then introduce a new “adaptive reconstruction” formalism that uses a progression of reconstruction parameters based on a per-atom correction from the cube root of the inverse of the voltage, along with linear correction factors linked to the evaporation sequence. We apply the measure for spatial accuracy to this new reconstruction protocol.
Current approaches to reconstruction in atom probe tomography produce results that exhibit substantial distortions throughout the analysis depth. This is largely because of the need to apply a multitude of assumptions when estimating the evolution of the tip shape, and other pseudo-empirical reconstruction factors, which vary both across the face of the tip and throughout the analysis depth. We introduce a new crystallography-mediated reconstruction to improve the spatial accuracy and dramatically reduce these in-depth variations. To achieve this, we developed a barycentric transform to directly relate atomic positions in detector space to real space. This is mediated by novel crystallographic analysis techniques, including: (1) calculating the orientation of a crystal directly from the field evaporation map, (2) tracking pole locations throughout the evaporation sequence, and (3) accounting for the evolving tip radius in a manner that removes the dependence on the geometric field factor. By improving the in-depth spatial accuracy of the atom probe reconstruction, a greater accuracy of the atomic neighborhood relationships is available. This is critical in modern materials science and engineering, where an understanding of the solid solution architecture, precipitate dispersions, and descriptions of the interfaces between phases or grains are key inputs to microstructure–property relationships.
Correlative microscopy approaches offer synergistic solutions to many research problems. One such combination, that has been studied in limited detail, is the use of atom probe tomography (APT) and transmission Kikuchi diffraction (TKD) on the same tip specimen. By combining these two powerful microscopy techniques, the microstructure of important engineering alloys can be studied in greater detail. For the first time, the accuracy of crystallographic measurements made using APT will be independently verified using TKD. Experimental data from two atom probe tips, one a nanocrystalline Al–0.5Ag alloy specimen collected on a straight flight-path atom probe and the other a high purity Mo specimen collected on a reflectron-fitted instrument, will be compared. We find that the average minimum misorientation angle, calculated from calibrated atom probe reconstructions with two different pole combinations, deviate 0.7° and 1.4°, respectively, from the TKD results. The type of atom probe and experimental conditions appear to have some impact on this accuracy and the reconstruction and measurement procedures are likely to contribute further to degradation in angular resolution. The challenges and implications of this correlative approach will also be discussed.
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