Electron Microscopy

PNNL is a leader in the integration of aberration-corrected electron microscopy, in-situ techniques, and atom probe tomography to address national challenges in nuclear materials, environmental remediation, energy storage, and national security.

A science as art image by Steve Spurgeon

This colorized atomic-scale electron microscope image shows how different materials can be combined for advanced computing technologies.

PNNL is home to an array of electron microscopes that play a critical role in supporting the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s energy resiliency and national security missions. Each instrument is stewarded by skilled electron microscopists whose wide research backgrounds cover materials science, biology, chemistry, and physics.

Located in various facilities across the PNNL campus, the microscopy community collectively applies a rich set of capabilities and expertise tailored to the diverse needs of clients, sponsors, and project managers.

The Artificial-Intelligence-Guided Transmission Electron Microscope (AutoEM) is a breakthrough innovation in nanoscience. AutoEM is a unique microscope platform that combines the power of machine learning with advanced automation to probe the building blocks of matter with unprecedented speed, clarity, and precision. It is enabling transformative discoveries in clean energy, quantum computing, medicine, and manufacturing. AutoEM can achieve in one hour what used to take a team of humans 1,000 hours.

Aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopes (STEMs) are flagship instruments that comprise PNNL’s main microscopy investment. These powerful instruments have revolutionized the study of materials, providing unparalleled access to atomic-resolution probes with the analytical power to resolve structure and chemistry from the micron scale, down to individual atoms.

PNNL scientists use these tools to examine microstructure, composition, and chemical states through a variety of imaging and analytical modes, including energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy, and 4D-STEM. These microscopy investments are supported by a comprehensive analysis pipeline of theory-based image, diffraction, and spectroscopy simulations.

PNNL also hosts a range of scanning electron microscopes, electron microprobe analyzers, and focused ion beam (FIB) microscopes to serve additional research needs. These instruments provide access to information at length scales up to centimeters, using surface analytical modes to strongly complement transmission electron microscopy. In addition, extensive investments in FIB instruments enable the extraction of site-specific samples for study in the STEM, 3D atom probe tomography, and other techniques, such as nano-secondary ion mass spectroscopy.

All of the electron microscopes listed are available for use by PNNL staff and are thus available to outside research projects collaborating with our scientists. Please contact the individual stewards with questions.

In addition, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) user facility, operated by PNNL for the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, hosts various electron microscopes that are accessible through user facility proposals. We advise interested parties to visit the EMSL website to pursue opportunities for collaborative research.

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