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Real-Time, Rapid and Noninvasive Atomic Lock-On in the Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope


Invention Reference Number

Lab researcher working with SEM images

The scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) provides unprecedented spatial resolution and is critical for many applications, primarily for imaging matter at the atomic and nanoscales and obtaining spectroscopic information at similar length scales. Precise placement of the electron probe at a known position (e.g., specific atom) in a material is currently not feasible without a large amount of electron dose. This technology is a procedure that allows for ultra-precise and non-invasive “atomic lock-on” in real-time with a STEM.


This technology is a procedure that allows for ultra-precise “atomic lock-on” in real time in a STEM. The “lock-on” refers to the process of obtaining the atomic lattice information from a special non-invasive and low dose electron beam scan pattern that can be used for targeting individual atoms or bonds. Current beam scanning with the instrument produces an image of hundreds or tens of atoms at a time. But this scan allows the operator to target and lock on to one individual atom non-invasively in a reliable, precise way, to precision below 20 picometers, well below bond distances between atoms. A custom external scan controller allows this unprecedented precision via the lock-on technique, and allows information to be retrieved in milliseconds. The scan itself is very fast, about 100 milliseconds.


  • Non-invasive
  • Fast
  • Integrable
  • Highly precise
  • Automates beam experiments and removes human operator and potential errors

Applications and Industries

  • Semiconductor manufacturing
  • Materials research


To learn more about this technology, email or call 865-574-1051.