Nano and Atomic Scale Imaging 1 PHYS5041

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Physics and Astronomy
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course covers the underlying physical principles required to understand widely applied

techniques for the characterisation of materials that depend critically upon structural features at the

nanometre and atomic length scales. The techniques covered include Scanning Electron

Microscopy (SEM), Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM) and

Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM). The physics governing these techniques is taught along

with an emphasis on practical knowledge.


Weekly lectures and practical sessions

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





1) Continuous Assessment from 3 post-instrument lab practical exercises (39%) and two computer lab assignments (26%)

2) Submitted written assignment (35%)

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessment is not available for the write-ups any of the lab practical exercises or the computer lab exercises.  Similarly, reassessment cannot be made of a lab report exercise for which the student already received written feedback. (Both cases would allow a student resubmitting to have a better chance of a good mark than a student not doing so).

Course Aims

To provide students with an opportunity to develop knowledge and understanding of

the key physical principles underpinning widely used techniques for imaging materials at the

nanometre and atomic length scales.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


1) Give a detailed description and compare the nature of electron interactions with bulk and thin samples and explain how the emitted and scattered radiation is used for imaging and diffraction in both the SEM and the TEM

2) Describe the function of the key components of an SEM, explain the mechanisms of contrast

formation and how they are used to perform conventional imaging

3) Describe the function of the key components of a TEM and explain how they are used in the

complete column to perform conventional imaging and diffraction

4) Elucidate the mechanisms of contrast formation for TEM images, including diffraction and phase

contrast and explain the role of aberrations and defocus in controlling the contrast transfer function

5) Critically evaluate the factors limiting spatial resolution in both SEM & TEM

6) Describe the main features of electron diffraction as applied in the TEM, and its uses in

determining the orientation, lattice parameters and symmetry of crystals

7) Apply knowledge of electron specimen interactions to describe the fundamentals of chemical spectroscopy in electron microscopy. Compare the types of information available from chemical signals in the SEM & TEM.

8) Describe the function of the key components of a scanning probe microscope and explain how they are

used to perform imaging of films and surfaces

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits