GRENOBLE, France, June 28 -- Researchers using a new holographic technique have obtained the highest resolution three-dimensional images yet observed of atoms in a crystal. As described in Physical Review Letters, the method has the potential to image impurities embedded in crystalline matter and ultrathin films.The team of physicists--led by Michel Belakhovsky of the Atomic Energy Commission in Grenoble, France, and by Miklos Tegze of the Research Institute for Solid State Physics in Budapest, Hungary--discovered how to sharpen the resolution of an interference pattern within a crystal of cobalt oxide by bathing cobalt and oxygen atoms in a powerful beam of x-rays. This stimulates the atoms to emit their own x-rays, and some of these secondary x-rays impinge directly on a detector, while others first bounce off the atoms in the crystal before reaching the detector. The two beams interfere in the crystal and form an interference pattern that the detector records. The researchers built a detector sensitive enough to distinguish this pattern from the scattered x-rays of the incoming beam, producing three-dimensional images of the atoms with a resolution of 0.5 angstroms.