One consequence of increasing the resolution of any technique is that the amount of material that can be studied at any one time decreases, since otherwise there is too much information present to be recorded or assimilated. Thus it would not be feasible to resolve simultaneously in the electron microscope all the atoms present in a thin foil. Where the electron microscope has been used to resolve atoms, either the planes of atoms in a crystal have been observed (essentially a diffraction effect), or else atoms deposited upon the surface of a film of some different material have been imaged. It is, in fact, almost essential to study only the surface of a solid at very high resolution, since the amount of detail to be recorded is thereby reduced to manageable proportions. One instrument that enables the atoms in the surface of a solid to be observed is the field-ion microscope, whose operation and advantages are described in this chapter.
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