Charging of carbon thin films in scanning and phase-plate transmission electron microscopy

Simon Hettler*, Emi Kano, Manuel Dries, Dagmar Gerthsen, Lukas Pfaffmann, Michael Bruns, Marco Beleggia, Marek Malac

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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    A systematic study on charging of carbon thin films under intense electron-beam irradiation was performed in a transmission electron microscope to identify the underlying physics for the functionality of hole-free phase plates. Thin amorphous carbon films fabricated by different deposition techniques and single-layer graphene were studied. Clean thin films at moderate temperatures show small negative charging while thin films kept at an elevated temperature are stable and not prone to beam-generated charging. The charging is attributed to electron-stimulated desorption (ESD) of chemisorbed water molecules from the thin-film surfaces and an accompanying change of work function. The ESD interpretation is supported by experimental results obtained by electron-energy loss spectroscopy, hole-free phase plate imaging, secondary electron detection and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy as well as simulations of the electrostatic potential distribution. The described ESD-based model explains previous experimental findings and is of general interest to any phase-related technique in a transmission electron microscope.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)252-266
    Number of pages15
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Scanning transmission electron microscopy
    • Transmission electron microscopy
    • Electron-beam induced charging
    • Thin film
    • Phase plate
    • Radiation damage
    • Hole-free phase plate
    • Volta phase plate


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