A symmetry-derived mechanism for atomic resolution imaging

Matus Krajnak, Joanne Etheridge

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4 Citations (Scopus)


We introduce an image-contrast mechanism for scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) that derives from the local symmetry within the specimen. For a given position of the electron probe on the specimen, the image intensity is determined by the degree of similarity between the exit electron-intensity distribution and a chosen symmetry operation applied to that distribution. The contrast mechanism detects both light and heavy atomic columns and is robust with respect to specimen thickness, electron-probe energy, and defocus. Atomic columns appear as sharp peaks that can be significantly narrower than for STEM images using conventional disk and annular detectors. This fundamentally different contrast mechanism complements conventional imaging modes and can be acquired simultaneously with them, expanding the power of STEM for materials characterization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27805-27810
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • atomic resolution
  • structure
  • symmetry
  • symmetry breaking
  • TEM

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