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Atom probe tomography



Ann Chiaramonti Debay, Baptiste Gault, Julie Cairney, Michael P. Moody, Oana Cojocaru-Miredin, Patrick Stender, Renelle Dubosq, Christoph Freysoldt, Surendra Kumar Makineni, Tong Li


Atom probe tomography (APT) provides three-dimensional compositional mapping with sub-nanometre resolution. The sensitivity of APT is in the range of parts per million for all elements, including light elements such as hydrogen, carbon or lithium, enabling unique insights into the composition of performance-enhancing or lifetime-limiting microstructural features and making APT ideally suited to complement electron-based or X-ray-based microscopies and spectroscopies. Here, we provide an introductory overview of APT ranging from its inception as an evolution of field ion microscopy to the most recent developments in specimen preparation, including for nanomaterials. We touch on data reconstruction, analysis and various applications, including in the geosciences and the burgeoning biological sciences. We review the underpinnings of APT performance and discuss both strengths and limitations of APT, including how the community can improve on current shortcomings. Finally, we look forwards to true atomic-scale tomography with the ability to measure the isotopic identity and spatial coordinates of every atom in an ever wider range of materials through new specimen preparation routes, novel laser pulsing and detector technologies, and full interoperability with complementary microscopy techniques.
Nature Reviews Methods Primers


Atom Probe Tomography, composition, Time of flight mass spectrometry


Chiaramonti Debay, A. , Gault, B. , Cairney, J. , Moody, M. , Cojocaru-Miredin, O. , Stender, P. , Dubosq, R. , Freysoldt, C. , Makineni, S. and Li, T. (2021), Atom probe tomography, Nature Reviews Methods Primers, [online],, (Accessed July 24, 2024)


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Created July 22, 2021, Updated October 14, 2021