Toward Å–fs–meV resolution in electron microscopy: systematic simulation of the temporal spread of single-electron packets
Though efforts to improve the temporal resolution of transmission electron microscopes (TEMs) have waxed and waned for decades, with relatively recent advances routinely reaching sub-picosecond scales, fundamental and practical challenges have hindered the advance of combined Å–fs–meV resolutions, particularly for core-loss spectroscopy and real-space imaging. This is due in no small part to the complexity of the approach required to access timescales upon which electrons, atoms, molecules, and materials first begin to respond and transform – attoseconds to picoseconds. Here we present part of a larger effort devoted to systematically mapping the instrument parameter space of a TEM modified to reach ultrafast timescales. With General Particle Tracer, we studied the statistical temporal distributions of single-electron packets as a function of various fs pulsed-laser parameters and electron-gun configurations and fields for the exact architecture and dimensions of a Thermo Fisher Tecnai Femto ultrafast electron microscope. We focused on easily-adjustable parameters, such as laser pulse duration, laser spot size, photon energy, Wehnelt aperture diameter, and photocathode size. In addition to establishing trends and dispersion behaviors, we identify regimes within which packet duration can be 100s of fs and approach the 300 fs laser limit employed here. Overall, the results provide a detailed picture of the temporal behavior of single-electron packets in the Tecnai Femto gun region, forming the initial contribution of a larger effort.