For multi-component crystalline materials, can we detect atomic clusters containing just 2, 3, or 4 atoms?

Take a material $A_4B_3C$ for example. Can we detect clusters of A with 2 atoms (pairs), 3 atoms (triangles), or 4 atoms (tetrahedrons)?


1 Answer 1


Sure, atomic-scale resolution is possible via a variety of methods. Check out atom-probe tomography (e.g. Kolli & Seidman, Microscopy & Microanalysis, 2007) or annular dark-field scanning transmission microscopy (e.g. Voyles et al., Nature, 2002).

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer, Chris. Are you sure an APT can help visualize clusters as small as 3 or 4 atoms? We have one at my university but I heard it isn't sensitive or accurate for such small cluster sizes. $\endgroup$ Nov 1, 2020 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ APT has a spatial resolution ~0.1 nm and can identify different atomic species, so you should be able to resolve individual atoms with reasonable accuracy. I’m not sure if it’s the best method for your application, but I’ve certainly seen some impressive results from APT. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Nov 1, 2020 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I'll look into it further : ) $\endgroup$ Nov 1, 2020 at 23:18

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