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Atomic-resolution cryogenic scanning transmission electron microscopy (cryo-STEM) has provided a path to probing the microscopic nature of select low-temperature phases in quantum materials. Expanding cryo-STEM techniques to broadly tunable temperatures will give access to the rich temperature-dependent phase diagrams of these materials. With existing cryo-holders, however, variations in sample temperature significantly disrupt the thermal equilibrium of the system, resulting in large-scale sample drift. The ability to tune the temperature without negative impact on the overall instrument stability is crucial, particularly for high-resolution experiments. Here, we test a new side-entry continuously variable temperature dual-tilt cryo-holder which integrates liquid nitrogen cooling with a 6-pin micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) sample heater to overcome some of these experimental challenges. We measure consistently low drift rates of 0.3–0.4 Å/s and demonstrate atomic-resolution cryo-STEM imaging across a continuously variable temperature range from ~100 K to well above room temperature. We conduct additional drift stability measurements across several commercial sample stages and discuss implications for further developments of ultra-stable, flexible cryo-stages.
Layered transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) have attracted interest due to their promise for future electronic and optoelectronic technologies. As one approaches the two-dimensional (2D) limit, thickness and local topology can greatly influence the macroscopic properties of a material. To understand the unique behavior of TMDs it is therefore important to identify the number of atomic layers and their stacking in a sample. The goal of this work is to extract the thickness and stacking sequence of TMDs directly by matching experimentally recorded high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscope images and convergent-beam electron diffraction (CBED) patterns to quantum mechanical, multislice scattering simulations. Advantageously, CBED approaches do not require a resolved lattice in real space and are capable of neglecting the thickness contribution of amorphous surface layers. Here we demonstrate the crystal thickness can be determined from CBED in exfoliated 1T-TaS2 and 2H-MoS2 to within a single layer for ultrathin ≲9 layers and ±1 atomic layer (or better) in thicker specimens while also revealing information about stacking order—even when the crystal structure is unresolved in real space.