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2003 IUCr report by Commission on Electron Diffraction

As the boom in nanoscience continues, the past year has been a remarkable year for electron diffraction. Especially notable, following the award of the Nobel Prize to A. Zewail, has been the growth of time-resolved electron diffraction in the gas phase, with pulse durations now down to 400 fs. While Coulomb interactions limit speed compared to pulsed X-ray work, count rates are much higher. Fast electron-microscope imaging, still at the nanosecond timescale, is now also growing with a large new programme at Livermore Laboratories, California, USA. An equally remarkable highlight from the past year is the publication of the first atomic-resolution image of a carbon nanotube (Science, 300, 1419). This aberration-free `lensless image' was obtained almost entirely from the electron diffraction pattern of a single tube, using new iterative phasing methods that can now solve the phase problem for non-periodic objects. Throughout the world, scientists are placing orders for the new generation of aberration-corrected electron microscopes, which, together with the new electron monochromators for energy-loss spectroscopy, promise to revolutionize the field. (In the USA, the Department of Energy `TEAM' project plans to install these in several national laboratories over the next few years, for example.) In biology, the appearance of TEMs dedicated to liquid-helium-cooled cryomicroscopy for single-particle three-dimensional imaging of proteins that cannot be crystallized is producing major advances, and the automation of electron tomography proceeds apace in both materials science and biology. The publication of the first subnanometre-resolution, three-dimensional views inside a mesoporous silicate catalyst must also rank as one of the year's highlights. The year has seen many conferences devoted to electron diffraction and imaging, including MC2003 in Dresden, Germany (7 September 2003), the Frontiers of Electron Microscopy conference in Berkeley California, USA (5 October 2003), a workshop in Cairns, Australia (30 June 2003) on the non-crystallographic phase problem, a conference honoring J. M. Cowley, FRS, in Arizona, USA (3 January 2003), the Moscow electron crystallography school, a diffraction school in Delft, The Netherlands (22 January 2003), the Microscopy Society of America meeting (3 August 2003), the UK EMAG meeting in Oxford (3 September 2003), a school on advanced HREM in China at the end of 2002 (see below, not reviewed last year) and several conferences in Japan, amongst many others.