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Atom-probe tomography (APT) is in the midst of a dynamic renaissance as a result of the development of well-engineered commercial instruments that are both robust and ergonomic and capable of collecting large data sets, hundreds of millions of atoms, in short time periods compared to their predecessor instruments. An APT setup involves a field-ion microscope coupled directly to a special time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometer that permits one to determine the mass-to-charge states of individual field-evaporated ions plus their x-, y-, and z-coordinates in a specimen in direct space with subnanoscale resolution. The three-dimensional (3D) data sets acquired are analyzed using increasingly sophisticated software programs that utilize high-end workstations, which permit one to handle continuously increasing large data sets. APT has the unique ability to dissect a lattice, with subnanometer-scale spatial resolution, using either voltage or laser pulses, on an atom-by-atom and atomic plane-by-plane basis and to reconstruct it in 3D with the chemical identity of each detected atom identified by TOF mass spectrometry. Employing pico- or femtosecond laser pulses using visible (green or blue light) to ultraviolet light makes the analysis of metallic, semiconducting, ceramic, and organic materials practical to different degrees of success. The utilization of dual-beam focused ion-beam microscopy for the preparation of microtip specimens from multilayer and surface films, semiconductor devices, and for producing site-specific specimens greatly extends the capabilities of APT to a wider range of scientific and engineering problems than could previously be studied for a wide range of materials: metals, semiconductors, ceramics, biominerals, and organic materials.
With the ability to locate and identify atoms in three dimensions, atom-probe tomography (APT) has revolutionized our understanding of structure-property relationships in materials used for structural applications. The atomic-scale details of clusters, second phases, and microstructural defects that control alloy properties have been investigated, providing an unprecedented level of detail on the origins of aging behavior, strength, creep, fracture toughness, corrosion, and irradiation resistance. Moreover, atomic-scale microscopy combined with atomistic simulation and theoretical modeling of material behavior can guide new alloy design. In this article, selected examples highlight how APT has led to a deeper understanding of materials structures and therefore properties, starting with the phase transformations controlling the aging and strengthening behavior of complex Al-, Fe-, and Ni-based alloys systems. The chemistry of interfaces and structural defects that play a crucial role in high-temperature strengthening, fracture, and corrosion resistance are also discussed, with particular reference to Zr- and Al-alloys and FeAl intermetallics.
This article reviews investigations of the growth and reactions within thin metal and oxide films using atom-probe tomography. Included in this review are (1) studies of interfacial and growth reactions in magnetoresistive metallic, metal/oxide, and magnetic magnetostrictive multilayers; (2) comparison of selected portions of these results to simulated film growth using molecular dynamics; and (3) study of the origin of room-temperature ferromagnetism in dilute magnetic semiconductors. Information of this type is useful in order to understand the formation and thermal evolution of thin films (and to compare to theory and modeling) and, ultimately, to permit further optimization of devices based on thin films.
The development of laser-assisted atom-probe tomography (APT) analysis and new sample preparation approaches have led to significant advances in the characterization of semiconductor materials and device structures by APT. The high chemical sensitivity and three-dimensional spatial resolution of APT makes it uniquely capable of addressing challenges resulting from the continued shrinking of semiconductor device dimensions, the integration of new materials and interfaces, and the optimization of evolving fabrication processes. Particularly pressing concerns include the variability in device performance due to discrete impurity atom distributions, the phase and interface stability in contacts and gate dielectrics, and the validation of simulations of impurity diffusion. This overview of APT of semiconductors features research on metal-silicide contact formation and phase control, silicon field-effect transistors, and silicon and germanium nanowires. Work on silicide contacts to silicon is reviewed to demonstrate impurity characterization in small volumes and indicate how APT can facilitate defect mitigation and process optimization. Impurity contour analysis of a pFET semiconductor demonstrates the site-specificity that is achievable with current APTs and highlights complex device challenges that can be uniquely addressed. Finally, research on semiconducting nanowires and nanowire heterostructures demonstrates the potential for analysis of materials derived from bottom-up synthesis methods.
The merits of atom-probe tomography (APT) of inorganic materials are well established, as described in this volume. However, one of the long-held aspirations of atom-probe scientists, structural and chemical characterization of organic and biological materials at near-atomic resolution, has yet to be fully realized. A few proof-of-concept type investigations have shown that APT of organic materials is feasible, but a number of challenges still exist with regard to specimen preparation and conversion of raw time-of-flight mass spectrometry data into a three-dimensional map of ions containing structural and chemical information at an acceptable resolution. Recent research aided by hardware improvements and specimen preparation advances has made some progress toward this goal. This article reviews the historical developments in this field, presents some recent results, and considers what life science researchers might expect from this technology.
Photonic crystals, in which the refractive index changes periodically, provide an exciting new tool for the manipulation of photons and have received keen interest from a variety of fields. This article reviews recent progress in the manipulation of photons by photonic crystals. First, the article covers spontaneous emission, a fundamental phenomenon associated with all photonic devices that emit light, which now can be successfully controlled. Light emission is suppressed in areas where the photonic crystal is complete, while strong emission occurs in the areas where there are artificial defects. Next, it is shown that a very strong confinement of photons in a small volume on the scale of cubic wavelengths becomes possible by using photonic crystals, where nanocavities with ultrahigh-Q values of more than 2 million have been successfully demonstrated. Finally, photonic crystals promise to realize unprecedented types of lasers, which can produce tailored beams on demand, while keeping stable single longitudinal and lateral modes.