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The second revolution in atom probe tomography

  • Thomas F. Kelly (a1) and David J. Larson (a2)

There has been explosive growth in the performance and consequential adoption of atom probe tomography in the past decade, which was fueled by the development of the commercial local-electrode atom probe (LEAP) and technologies for specimen preparation. The LEAP introduced to atom probes orders-of-magnitude increases in data collection rates and field of view while improving mass resolution and greatly improving ease of use. These developments constitute the second revolution in the field since the invention of the atom probe in 1967 and atom probe tomography in 1973: the invention of the three-dimensional atom probe was the first revolution. This article seeks to put this second revolution into historical perspective by recounting the essential developments that led to this point. In particular, the role of Erwin Müller, the inventor of the atom probe and related instruments, is highlighted. From the invention of the field emission electron microscope to the field ion microscope to the atom probe and beyond, he created a field of microscopy that is thriving today. Next, the state of the art in atom probe instrumentation is illustrated with a current application. Finally, a brief look toward future developments is provided, which may include superconducting detectors and integration of atom probes with transmission electron microscopes.

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MRS Bulletin
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