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Thin-film phase plates (PPs) have become an interesting tool to enhance the contrast of weak-phase objects in transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The thin film usually consists of amorphous carbon, which suffers from quick degeneration under the intense electron-beam illumination. Recent investigations have focused on the search for alternative materials with an improved material stability. This work presents thin-film PPs fabricated from metallic glass alloys, which are characterized by a high electrical conductivity and an amorphous structure. Thin films of the zirconium-based alloy Zr65.0Al7.5Cu27.5 (ZAC) were fabricated and their phase-shifting properties were evaluated. The ZAC film was investigated by different TEM techniques, which reveal beneficial properties compared with amorphous carbon PPs. Particularly favorable is the small probability for inelastic plasmon scattering, which results from the combined effect of a moderate inelastic mean free path and a reduced film thickness due to a high mean inner potential. Small probability plasmon scattering improves contrast transfer at high spatial frequencies, which makes the ZAC alloy a promising material for PP fabrication.
Zach phase plates (PPs) are promising devices to enhance phase contrast in transmission electron microscopy. The Zach PP shifts the phase of the zero-order beam by a strongly localized inhomogeneous electrostatic potential in the back focal plane of the objective lens. We present substantial improvements of the Zach PP, which overcome previous limitations. The implementation of a microstructured heating device significantly reduces contamination and charging of the PP structure and extends its lifetime. An improved production process allows fabricating PPs with reduced dimensions resulting in lower cut-on frequencies as revealed by simulations of the electrostatic potential. Phase contrast with inversion of PbSe nanoparticles is demonstrated in a standard transmission electron microscope with LaB6 cathode by applying different voltages.
A promising novel type of electrostatic phase plate for transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is presented. The phase plate consists of a single microcoaxial cable-like rod with its electrode exposed to the undiffracted electrons. The emerging field is used to shift the phase of the undiffracted electrons with respect to diffracted electrons. The design overcomes the drawback of the spatial frequency-blocking ring electrode of the Boersch phase plate. First, experimental phase-contrast images are presented for PbSe and Pt nanoparticles with clearly varying phase contrast, which depends on the applied voltage and resulting phase shift of the unscattered electrons. With the new phase-plate design, we show for the first time the reconstruction of an object wave function based on a series of only three experimental phase-contrast TEM images obtained with an electrostatic phase plate.
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