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Fast pixelated detectors incorporating direct electron detection (DED) technology are increasingly being regarded as universal detectors for scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), capable of imaging under multiple modes of operation. However, several issues remain around the post-acquisition processing and visualization of the often very large multidimensional STEM datasets produced by them. We discuss these issues and present open source software libraries to enable efficient processing and visualization of such datasets. Throughout, we provide examples of the analysis methodologies presented, utilizing data from a 256 × 256 pixel Medipix3 hybrid DED detector, with a particular focus on the STEM characterization of the structural properties of materials. These include the techniques of virtual detector imaging; higher-order Laue zone analysis; nanobeam electron diffraction; and scanning precession electron diffraction. In the latter, we demonstrate a nanoscale lattice parameter mapping with a fractional precision ≤6 × 10−4 (0.06%).
A scanning precession electron diffraction system has been integrated with a direct electron detector to allow the collection of improved quality diffraction patterns. This has been used on a two-phase α–β titanium alloy (Timetal® 575) for phase and orientation mapping using an existing pattern-matching algorithm and has been compared to the commonly used detector system, which consisted of a high-speed video-camera imaging the small phosphor focusing screen. Noise is appreciably lower with the direct electron detector, and this is especially noticeable further from the diffraction pattern center where the real electron scattering is reduced and both diffraction spots and inelastic scattering between spots are weaker. The results for orientation mapping are a significant improvement in phase and orientation indexing reliability, especially of fine nanoscale laths of α-Ti, where the weak diffracted signal is rather lost in the noise for the optically coupled camera. This was done at a dose of ~19 e−/Å2, and there is clearly a prospect for reducing the current further while still producing indexable patterns. This opens the way for precession diffraction phase and orientation mapping of radiation-sensitive crystalline materials.
The use of fast pixelated detectors and direct electron detection technology is revolutionizing many aspects of scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM). The widespread adoption of these new technologies is impeded by the technical challenges associated with them. These include issues related to hardware control, and the acquisition, real-time processing and visualization, and storage of data from such detectors. We discuss these problems and present software solutions for them, with a view to making the benefits of new detectors in the context of STEM more accessible. Throughout, we provide examples of the application of the technologies presented, using data from a Medipix3 direct electron detector. Most of our software are available under an open source licence, permitting transparency of the implemented algorithms, and allowing the community to freely use and further improve upon them.
It is shown that a xenon plasma focused ion beam (FIB) microscope is an excellent tool for high-quality preparation of functional oxide thin films for atomic resolution electron microscopy. Samples may be prepared rapidly, at least as fast as those prepared using conventional gallium FIB. Moreover, the surface quality after 2 kV final polishing with the Xe beam is exceptional with only about 3 nm of amorphized surface present. The sample quality was of a suitably high quality to allow atomic resolution high-angle annular dark field imaging and integrated differential phase contrast without any further preparation, and the resulting images were good enough for quantitative evaluation of atomic positions to reveal the oxygen octahedral tilt pattern. This suggests that such xenon plasma FIB instruments may find widespread application in transmission electron microscope and scanning transmission electron microscope specimen preparation.
Electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) has undergone a rapid transformation in the past 15 years from a curiosity and a minority interest into an important part of our arsenal of microstructure characterisation techniques. In this time, it has been very widely applied in metallurgy, especially in understanding the influence of processing on local crystallographic textures and on boundary populations. More recently, it has been used in a diverse range of different fields including semiconductors, ceramics, geological materials and even palaeontology. In this article we will show how EBSD can yield invaluable information about domain structures in ferroelectrics.