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Nanomaterial Atom Positions Deciphered: NSYSU Research Published in Nature
Publish date : 2017-02-20
A recent research of locating all 3D atomic positions and deciphering the chemical compositions at the single-atom-level, with an international collaboration of Assistant Professor Chien-Chun Chen at NSYSU Department of Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, and National Center for Electron Microscopy, is published in the journal Nature and highlighted by Nature New&Views.

In 1959, Richard Feynman challenged the electron microscopy community, "t would be very easy to make an analysis of any complicated chemical substance; all one would have to do would be to look at it and see where the atoms are." said Chen. Over the past half century, researchers in Physics, Chemistry, and material sciences have attempted to address special properties through theoretical calculations based on tentative atomic models. However, these models are neither convincing nor practical to comprehend the mechanisms of the materials of interest completely.

Chen and the international collaboration research team have now developed a novel technique that applies the idea of computed tomography from medical imaging to nanomaterial imaging using a scanning transmission electron microscope. They have overcome the problems of sample drifting, radiation damage, missing data and the limitation of the hardware, and implemented the 3D reconstruction of a FePt nanoparticle by a powerful algorithm. Through this technique, scientists may reveal the 3D coordinate and species of individual atoms without cropping or destroying the specimen. The information can be used to understand nanoparticle’s magnetic properties by computer simulation. Therefore, this work is close to successfully tackling Feynman's challenge.

Chen emphasized that this unique technique is expected to find broad applications to the communities of condensed matter physics, chemistry, and materials science. In academics, the accurate 3D atomic models with distinct chemical distribution connect the macro measurement and micro characterization such that theorists can have much more understandings of materials. In industry, the structural determination of nanomaterials enhances the performance of manufacturing, especially in the semiconductor industry.
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