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People usually associate holograms with futuristic 3D display technologies, but in reality, holographic technologies are now being used to help study materials at the atomic level. X-rays, a high energy form of light, are often used to study atomic structure. However, X-rays are only sensitive to the number of electrons associated with an atom. This limits the use of X-rays for studying materials made up of lighter elements. Neutron measurements can often fill in the gaps in structures when X-ray measurements fail, but neutron beams are harder to make and have lower intensities than X-ray beams, which limits their versatility.

Now, a collaboration among Japanese researchers working at national particle accelerator facilities across Japan has developed a new multiple-wavelength neutron holography technique that can give insights into previously unknown structures. They demonstrated a new neutron holographic method using a Eu-doped CaF2 single crystal and obtained clear three-dimensional atomic images around trivalent Eu substituted divalent Ca, revealing never-before-seen intensity features of the local structure that allows it to maintain charge neutrality.

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