Using a scanning transmission electron microscope, the team of researchers was able to directly image an individual "antimony dopant" atom within crystalline silicon.
Scientists at Bell Labs announced Thursday that they have found a way, using a special electron microscope, to look deep inside a semiconductor and create an image of a single impurity atom embedded in the silicon. This is a critical requirement if future generations of electronics are to continue to shrink.
"They scan through the sample, and the beam is so small it can actually go between atoms," Lucent Technologies spokesperson Saswato Das told NewsFactor. "They can actually see single atoms."
This is the first time an individual impurity atom has been pictured in its undisturbed state within a crystal. The scientists compared the event to observing a footprint on the moon from Earth.
"It has become critically important to both image and understand the chemical and physical environment within devices, because these properties will ultimately determine the extent to which we can continue to shrink silicon dimensions," Elsa Reichmanis of Bell Labs said in announcing the discovery.