A type of electron microscope in which a high negative voltage is applied to a metal tip placed in an evacuated vessel some distance from a glass screen with a fluorescent coating. The tip produces electrons by field emission, i.e. the emission of electrons from an unheated sharp metal part as a result of a high electric field. The emitted electrons form an enlarged pattern on the fluorescent screen, related to the individual exposed planes of atoms. As the resolution of the instrument is limited by the vibrations of the metal atoms, it is helpful to cool the tip in liquid helium. Although the individual atoms forming the point are not displayed, individual adsorbed atoms of other substances can be, and their activity is observable.
Subjects: Chemistry — Biological Sciences.