Measuring the mean inner potential of Al 2 O 3 sapphire using off-axis electron holography

Avi Auslender, Mahdi Halabi, George Levi, Oswaldo Diéguez, Amit Kohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The mean inner potential (MIP) of a single crystal α-Al 2 O 3 sapphire was measured using off-axis electron holography. To measure the MIP, we use mechanically polished wedge specimens for transmission electron microscopy (TEM). This approach also enabled us to measure the plasmon mean free path for inelastic scattering (IMFP). The wedge specimen, chosen here at an angle of approximately 45° allows to determine the MIP by measuring the gradient of phase variations of the reconstructed electron wave over extended regions across the sample. The angle of the wedge was measured to an accuracy of better than 1° by two methods: first, perpendicular sectioning in a focused ion beam for direct measurement by TEM and second, by a non-destructive approach of confocal optical microscopy. The validity of this methodology was examined on a single crystal Si(001) sample showing that the mechanically polished wedge approach can be applied to a wide range of materials. Our measurements concluded that the MIP of sapphire is V 0 = 16.90 ± 0.36 V. Furthermore, the IMFP of sapphire was measured at 136 ± 2 nm for 197 keV electrons with a collection angle of 18mrad. The measured MIP of sapphire reflects its degree of ionicity, which lies between theoretical calculations based on electron scattering factors of charged and neutral isolated atoms obtained by Dirac–Fock calculations. Our MIP measurements tend to the expected value for this predominantly ionic material. To account for chemical bonding and the role of the crystallographic plane at the surface of the sample, we compared the experimental measurements to density-functional-theory calculations of the MIP. Calculations of α-Al 2 O 3 slabs cut along (0001) and (1–100) planes obtained MIP values of 15.7 V and 16.7 V, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-25
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Density functional theory
  • Inelastic mean free path
  • Mean inner potential
  • Off-axis electron holography
  • Sapphire (Al O )

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation


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