Cathodoluminescence for the 21st Century: Learning More from Light

Nancy Haegel, T. Coenen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus Citations


Cathodoluminescence (CL) is the emission of light from a material in response to excitation by incident electrons. The technique has had significant impact in the characterization of semiconductors, minerals, ceramics, and many nanostructured materials. Since 2010, there have been a number of innovative developments that have revolutionized and expanded the information that can be gained from CL and broadened the areas of application. While the primary historical application of CL was for spatial mapping of luminescence variations (e.g., imaging dark line defects in semiconductor lasers or providing high resolution imaging of compositional variations in geological materials), new ways to collect and analyze the emitted light have expanded the science impact of CL, particularly at the intersection of materials science and nanotechnology. These developments include (1) angular and polarized CL, (2) advances in time resolved CL, (3) far-field and near-field transport imaging that enable drift and diffusion information to be obtained through real space imaging, (4) increasing use of statistical analyses for the study of grain boundaries and interfaces, (5) 3D CL including tomography and combined work utilizing dual beam systems with CL, and (6) combined STEM/CL measurements that are reaching new levels of resolution and advancing single photon spectroscopy. This focused review will first summarize the fundamentals and then briefly describe the state-of-the-art in conventional CL imaging and spectroscopy. We then review these recent novel experimental approaches that enable added insight and information, providing a range of examples from nanophotonics, photovoltaics, plasmonics, and studies of individual defects and grain boundaries.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberArticle No. 031103
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Physics Reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 U.S. Government.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-68617


  • cathodoluminescence
  • nanophotonics
  • transport


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