Nav: Home

New lens system for brighter, sharper diffraction images

April 25, 2019

To design and improve energy storage materials, smart devices, and many more technologies, researchers need to understand their hidden structure and chemistry. Advanced research techniques, such as ultra-fast electron diffraction imaging can reveal that information. Now, a group of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a new and improved version of electron diffraction at Brookhaven's Accelerator Test Facility (ATF)--a DOE Office of Science User Facility that offers advanced and unique experimental instrumentation for studying particle acceleration to researchers from all around the world. The researchers published their findings in Scientific Reports, an open-access journal by Nature Research.

Advancing a research technique such as ultra-fast electron diffraction will help future generations of materials scientists to investigate materials and chemical reactions with new precision. Many interesting changes in materials happen extremely quickly and in small spaces, so improved research techniques are necessary to study them for future applications. This new and improved version of electron diffraction offers a stepping stone for improving various electron beam-related research techniques and existing instrumentation.

"We implemented our new focusing system for electron beams and demonstrated that we can improve the resolution significantly when compared to the conventional solenoid technique," said Xi Yang, author of the study and an accelerator physicist at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Brookhaven Lab. "The resolution mainly depends on the properties of light - or in our case - of the electron beam. This is universal for all imaging techniques, including light microscopy and x-ray imaging. However, it is much more challenging to focus the charged electrons to a near-parallel pencil-like beam at the sample than it would be with light, because electrons are negatively charged and therefore repulse one another. This is called the space charge effect. By using our new setup, we were able to overcome the space charge effect and obtain diffraction data that is three times brighter and two times sharper; it's a major leap in resolution."

Every electron diffraction setup uses an electron beam that is focused on the sample so that the electrons bounce off the atoms in the sample and travel further to the detector behind the sample. The electrons create a so-called diffraction pattern, which can be translated into the structural makeup of the materials at the nanoscale. The advantage of using electrons to image this inner structure of materials is that the so called diffraction limit of electrons is very low, which means scientists can resolve smaller details in the structure compared to other diffraction methods.

A diverse team of researchers was needed to improve such a complex research method. The Brookhaven Lab team consisted of electron beam experts from the NSLS-II, electron accelerator experts from ATF, and materials science experts from the condensed matter physics & materials science (CMPMS) department.

"This advance would not have been possible without the combination of all our expertise across Brookhaven Lab. At NSLS-II, we have expertise on how to handle the electron beam. The ATF group brought the expertise and capabilities of the electron gun and laser technologies - both of which were needed to create the electron beam in the first place. And the CMPMS group has the sample expertise and, of course, drives the application needs. This is a unique synergy and, together, we were able to show how the resolution of the technique can be improved drastically," said Li Hua Yu, NSLS-II senior accelerator physicist and co-author of the study.

To achieve its improved resolution, the team developed a different method of focusing the electron beam. Instead of using a conventional approach that involves solenoid magnets, the researchers used two groups of four quadrupole magnets to tune the electron beam. Compared to solenoid magnets, which act as just one lens to shape the beam, the quadrupole magnets work like a specialized lens system for the electrons, and they gave the scientists far more flexibility to tune and shape the beam according to the needs of their experiment.

"Our lens system can provide a wide range of tunability of the beam. We can optimize the most important parameters such as beam size, or charge density, and beam divergence based on the experimental conditions, and therefore provide the best beam quality for the scientific needs," said Yang.

The team can even adjust the parameters on-the-fly with online optimization tools and correct any nonuniformities of the beam shape; however, to make this measurement possible, the team needed the excellent electron beam that ATF provides. ATF has an electron gun that generates an extremely bright and ultrashort electron beam, which offers the best conditions for electron diffraction.

"The team used a photocathode gun that generates the electrons through a process called photoemission," said Mikhail Fedurin, an accelerator physicist at ATF. "We shoot an ultrashort laser pulse into a copper cathode, and when the pulse hits the cathode a cloud of electrons forms over the copper. We pull the electrons away using an electric field and then accelerate them. The amount of electrons in one of these pulses and our capability to accelerate them to specific energies make our system attractive for material science research - particularly for ultrafast electron diffraction."

The focusing system together with the ATF electron beam is very sensitive, so the researchers can measure the influences of Earth' magnetic field on the electron beam.

"In general, electrons are always influenced by magnetic fields--this is how we steer them in particle accelerators in the first place; however, the effect of Earth's magnetic field is not negligible for the low-energy beam we used in this experiment," said Victor Smalyuk, NSLS-II accelerator physics group leader and co-author of the study. "The beam deviated from the desired trajectory, which created difficulties during the initial starting phase, so we had to correct for this effect."

Beyond the high brightness of the electron beam and the high precision of the focusing system, the team also needed the right sample to make these measurements. The CMPMS group provided the team with a polycrystalline gold film to fully explore the newly designed lens system and to put it to the test.

"We made the sample by depositing the gold atoms on a several nanometer thick carbon film using a technique called thermal evaporation," said Junjie Li, a physicist in the CMPMS department. "We evaporated gold particles so that they condense on the carbon film and form tiny, isolated nanoparticles that slowly merge together and form the polycrystalline film."

This film was essential for the measurements because it has randomly oriented crystals that merge together. Therefore, the inner structure of the sample is not uniform, but consists of many differently oriented areas, which means that the diffraction pattern mainly depends on the electron beam qualities. This gives the scientists the best ground to really test their lens system, to tune the beam, and to see the impact of their tuning directly in the quality of the diffraction measurement.

"We initially set out to improve electron diffraction for scientific studies of materials, but we also found that this technique can help us characterize our electron beam. In fact, diffraction is very sensitive to the electron beam parameters, so we can use the diffraction pattern of a known sample to measure our beam parameters precisely and directly, which is usually not that easy," said Yang.

The team intends to pursue further improvements, and they already have plans to develop another setup for ultra-fast electron microscopy to directly visualize a biological sample.

"We hope to achieve ultrafast single-shot electron beam imaging at some point and maybe even make molecular movies, which isn't possible with our current electron beam imaging setup," said Yang.
-end-
This research was supported by Laboratory Directed Research and Development funding and by DOE's Office Science through its support of the ATF.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

Follow @BrookhavenLab on Twitter or find us on Facebook.

DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

Related Magnetic Field Articles:

Origins of Earth's magnetic field remain a mystery
The existence of a magnetic field beyond 3.5 billion years ago is still up for debate.
New research provides evidence of strong early magnetic field around Earth
New research from the University of Rochester provides evidence that the magnetic field that first formed around Earth was even stronger than scientists previously believed.
Massive photons in an artificial magnetic field
An international research collaboration from Poland, the UK and Russia has created a two-dimensional system -- a thin optical cavity filled with liquid crystal -- in which they trapped photons.
Adhesive which debonds in magnetic field could reduce landfill waste
Researchers at the University of Sussex have developed a glue which can unstick when placed in a magnetic field, meaning products otherwise destined for landfill, could now be dismantled and recycled at the end of their life.
Earth's last magnetic field reversal took far longer than once thought
Every several hundred thousand years or so, Earth's magnetic field dramatically shifts and reverses its polarity.
A new rare metals alloy can change shape in the magnetic field
Scientists developed multifunctional metal alloys that emit and absorb heat at the same time and change their size and volume under the influence of a magnetic field.
Physicists studied the influence of magnetic field on thin film structures
A team of scientists from Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University together with their colleagues from Russia, Japan, and Australia studied the influence of inhomogeneity of magnetic field applied during the fabrication process of thin-film structures made from nickel-iron and iridium-manganese alloys, on their properties.
'Magnetic topological insulator' makes its own magnetic field
A team of U.S. and Korean physicists has found the first evidence of a two-dimensional material that can become a magnetic topological insulator even when it is not placed in a magnetic field.
Scientists develop a new way to remotely measure Earth's magnetic field
By zapping a layer of meteor residue in the atmosphere with ground-based lasers, scientists in the US, Canada and Europe get a new view of Earth's magnetic field.
Magnetic field milestone
Physicists from the Institute for Solid State Physics at the University of Tokyo have generated the strongest controllable magnetic field ever produced.
More Magnetic Field News and Magnetic Field Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.