• Atom-probe tomography;
  • emitter shape;
  • multilayer


Atom-probe tomography analysis of complex multilayer structures is a promising avenue for studying interfacial properties. However, significant artefacts in the three-dimensional reconstructed data arise due to the field evaporation process. To clarify the origin and impact of these artefacts for a FeCoB/FeCo/MgO/FeCo/IrMn multilayer, tip shapes were observed by transmission electron microscopy and compared to those obtained by finite difference modelling of electric fields and evaporation processes. It was found that the emitter shape is not spherical and its surface morphology evolves during successive evaporation of the different layers. This evolving morphology contributes to the artefacts generally observed in the reconstructed atom-probe data for multilayer structures because algorithms for three-dimensional reconstruction are based on the assumption that the shape of the emitter during field evaporation is spherical. Some proposed improvements to data reconstruction are proposed.