Electron holography for the study of nanomagnetic materials

John Meurig Thomas, Edward T. Simpson, Takeshi Kasama, Rafal E. Dunin-Borkowski

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Transmission electron microscopes fitted with field-emission guns (to provide coherent electron waves) can be adapted to record the magnetic fields within and surrounding nanoparticles or metal clusters, for example, the lines of force of a nanoferromagnet encapsulated within a multiwalled carbon nanotube. Whereas most chemists are aware that electron microscopy readily identifies crystallographic symmetries and phases, solves structures, and, in conjunction with electron energy-loss spectroscopy, yields valence states and electronic information of materials, relatively few know that it can also provide important quantitative information, with nanometer-scale spatial resolution, pertaining to such materials’ magnetic properties. In this Account, with the aid of representative examples embracing solid-state chemistry, geochemistry, and bio-inorganic phenomena, we illustrate how off-axis electron holography affords deep insight into magnetic phenomena on the nanoscale. Specifically, we describe the unprecedented level of information available regarding the magnetic nature of magnetotactic bacteria, magnetic nanoparticle chains and chiral bracelets, and geochemically relevant phenomena involving exsolution (the un-mixing of two mineral phases, as in the magnetite−ulvöspinel system). It is, for example, possible to reveal vortices and multidomain states that have no net magnetization in minute blocks of magnetite. With the current burgeoning interest and activity in nanoscience and nanotechnology, our Account concludes with examples of some existing enigmas that electron holography, especially when augmented by the related technique of electron tomography, might play an important experimental role in resolving, such as the occurrence of ferromagnetism in nanocrystals of silver within carbon tubes and in clusters of alkali metals incarcerated within zeolites.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)665-674
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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