Three-dimensional coordinates of individual atoms in materials revealed by electron tomography

Rui Xu, Chien Chun Chen, Li Wu, M. C. Scott, W. Theis, Colin Ophus, Matthias Bartels, Yongsoo Yang, Hadi Ramezani-Dakhel, Michael R. Sawaya, Hendrik Heinz, Laurence D. Marks, Peter Ercius, Jianwei Miao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Crystallography, the primary method for determining the 3D atomic positions in crystals, has been fundamental to the development of many fields of science. However, the atomic positions obtained from crystallography represent a global average of many unit cells in a crystal. Here, we report, for the first time, the determination of the 3D coordinates of thousands of individual atoms and a point defect in a material by electron tomography with a precision of ∼19 pm, where the crystallinity of the material is not assumed. From the coordinates of these individual atoms, we measure the atomic displacement field and the full strain tensor with a 3D resolution of ∼1nm3 and a precision of ∼10-3, which are further verifiedby density functional theory calculationsandmolecular dynamics simulations. The ability to precisely localize the 3D coordinates of individual atoms in materials without assuming crystallinity is expected to find important applications in materials science, nanoscience,physics, chemistryandbiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1099-1103
Number of pages5
JournalNature materials
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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