Surface determination through atomically resolved secondary-electron imaging

J. Ciston*, H. G. Brown, A. J. D'Alfonso, P. Koirala, C. Ophus, Y. Lin, Y. Suzuki, H. Inada, Y. Zhu, L. J. Allen, L. D. Marks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Unique determination of the atomic structure of technologically relevant surfaces is often limited by both a need for homogeneous crystals and ambiguity of registration between the surface and bulk. Atomically resolved secondary-electron imaging is extremely sensitive to this registration and is compatible with faceted nanomaterials, but has not been previously utilized for surface structure determination. Here we report a detailed experimental atomic-resolution secondary-electron microscopy analysis of the c(6 × 2) reconstruction on strontium titanate (001) coupled with careful simulation of secondary-electron images, density functional theory calculations and surface monolayer-sensitive aberration-corrected plan-view high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. Our work reveals several unexpected findings, including an amended registry of the surface on the bulk and strontium atoms with unusual seven-fold coordination within a typically high surface coverage of square pyramidal TiO5 units. Dielectric screening is found to play a critical role in attenuating secondary-electron generation processes from valence orbitals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7358
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Jun 17 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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