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A Simple Preparation Method for Full-Range Electron Tomography of Nanoparticles and Fine Powders

  • Elliot Padgett (a1), Robert Hovden (a1) (a2), Jessica C. DaSilva (a3), Barnaby D. A. Levin (a1), John L. Grazul (a4), Tobias Hanrath (a3) and David A. Muller (a1) (a5)...

Electron tomography has become a valuable and widely used tool for studying the three-dimensional nanostructure of materials and biological specimens. However, the incomplete tilt range provided by conventional sample holders limits the fidelity and quantitative interpretability of tomographic images by leaving a “missing wedge” of unknown information in Fourier space. Imaging over a complete range of angles eliminates missing wedge artifacts and dramatically improves tomogram quality. Full-range tomography is usually accomplished using needle-shaped samples milled from bulk material with focused ion beams, but versatile specimen preparation methods for nanoparticles and other fine powders are lacking. In this work, we present a new preparation technique in which powder specimens are supported on carbon nanofibers that extend beyond the end of a tungsten needle. Using this approach, we produced tomograms of platinum fuel cell catalysts and gold-decorated strontium titanate photocatalyst specimens. Without the missing wedge, these tomograms are free from elongation artifacts, supporting straightforward automatic segmentation and quantitative analysis of key materials properties such as void size and connectivity, and surface area and curvature. This approach may be generalized to other samples that can be dispersed in liquids, such as biological structures, creating new opportunities for high-quality electron tomography across disciplines.

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Microscopy and Microanalysis
  • ISSN: 1431-9276
  • EISSN: 1435-8115
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