Aberration-corrected STEM imaging of 2D materials: Artifacts and practical applications of threefold astigmatism

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Science Advances  09 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 37, eabb8431
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb8431


High-resolution scanning transmission electron microscopy (HR-STEM) with spherical aberration correction enables researchers to peer into two-dimensional (2D) materials and correlate the material properties with those of single atoms. The maximum intensity of corrected electron beam is confined in the area having sub-angstrom size. Meanwhile, the residual threefold astigmatism of the electron probe implies a triangular shape distribution of the intensity, whereas its tails overlap and thus interact with several atomic species simultaneously. The result is the resonant modulation of contrast that interferes the determination of phase transition of 2D materials. Here, we theoretically reveal and experimentally determine the origin of resonant modulation of contrast and its unintended impact on violating the power-law dependence of contrast on coordination modes between transition metal and chalcogenide atoms. The finding illuminates the correlation between atomic contrast, spatially inequivalent chalcogenide orientation, and residual threefold astigmatism on determining the atomic structure of emerging 2D materials.

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