Individual atoms resolved within nanoparticle comprising several grains

four grains within a nanoparticle
Inside a gold nanoparticle (credit: UCLA)

As nanotechnologists work to build ever more complex nanostructures, working toward complex atomically precise nanostructures, it will become increasingly useful for them to be able to see just what they are building. A new tomographic reconstruction method with scanning transmission electron microscopy delivers 3D images of individual atoms within regions of irregular nanoparticles. From “How to peer within nanoparticles to see atomic structure in 3D“:

UCLA researchers are now able to peer deep within the world&rdsquo;s tiniest structures to create three-dimensional images of individual atoms and their positions. Their research presents a new method for directly measuring the atomic structure of nanomaterials.

“This is the first experiment where we can directly see local structures in three dimensions at atomic-scale resolution — that&rdsquo;s never been done before,” said Jianwei (John) Miao, a professor of physics and astronomy and a researcher with the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UCLA.

Miao and his colleagues used a scanning transmission electron microscope to sweep a narrow beam of high-energy electrons over a tiny gold particle only 10 nanometers in diameter (almost 1,000 times smaller than a red blood cell).

The nanoparticle contained tens of thousands of individual gold atoms. These atoms interact with the electrons passing through the sample, casting shadows that hold information about the nanoparticle&rdsquo;s interior structure onto a detector below the microscope. …

A movie that is part of the free supplementary information associated with the article abstract clearly shows the individual atoms within the four major grains within a 10-nm gold nanoparticle. The next challenge will be to develop imaging capable of resolving individual atoms in 3D within complex nanomachinery made of several different types of atoms, as opposed to homogeneous grains within a nanoparticle.
—James Lewis, PhD

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