Optimal experiment design for element specific atom counting using multiple annular dark field scanning transmission electron microscopy detectors

DG Senturk and A De Backer and T Friedrich and S Van Aert, ULTRAMICROSCOPY, 242, 113626 (2022).

DOI: 10.1016/j.ultramic.2022.113626

This paper investigates the possible benefits for counting atoms of different chemical nature when analysing multiple 2D scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) images resulting from independent annular dark field (ADF) detector regimes. To reach this goal, the principles of statistical detection theory are used to quantify the probability of error when determining the number of atoms in atomic columns consisting of multiple types of elements. In order to apply this theory, atom-counting is formulated as a statistical hypothesis test, where each hypothesis corresponds to a specific number of atoms of each atom type in an atomic column. The probability of error, which is limited by the unavoidable presence of electron counting noise, can then be computed from scattering-cross sections extracted from multiple ADF STEM images. Minimisation of the probability of error as a function of the inner and outer angles of a specified number of independent ADF collection regimes results in optimal experimental designs. Based on simulations of spherical Au@Ag and Au@Pt core-shell nanoparticles, we investigate how the combination of two non-overlapping detector regimes helps to improve the probability of error when unscrambling two types of atoms. In particular, the combination of a narrow low angle ADF detector with a detector formed by the remaining annular collection regime is found to be optimal. The benefit is more significant if the atomic number Z difference becomes larger. In addition, we show the benefit of subdividing the detector regime into three collection areas for heterogeneous nanostructures based on a structure consisting of three types of elements, e.g., a mixture of Au, Ag and Al atoms. Finally, these results are compared with the probability of error resulting when one would ultimately use a pixelated 4D STEM detector and how this could help to further reduce the incident electron dose.

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