An optical phase plate system and method for enhancing phase contrast in electron beam imaging includes a transmission electron microscope (TEM) having a back focal plane; an optical cavity having a high internal surface reflectance, the center of the optical cavity located at the back focal plane of the TEM, the optical cavity having first and second ports arranged oppositely along a symmetrical axis of the optical cavity to admit an electron beam provided by the TEM through the first port to pass through and focus at the center of the optical cavity, and to exit through the second port, and wherein the optical cavity further has an optical port on an axis transverse to and intersecting the electron beam axis to admit a laser beam; a laser coupled to the optical cavity to provide a laser beam of a selected wavelength to enter the optical cavity through the optical port, wherein the laser beam is multiply reflected from the high internal surface reflectance to provide a high intensity standing wave optical phase plate focused at the back focal plane of the TEM to cause a modulation of the electron beam; and an image plane of the TEM placed opposite the second port of the optical cavity to receive the electron beam modulated by the high intensity standing wave optical phase plate.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENTAL SUPPORT
 This invention was made in the course of or under prime contract No. DE-ACO2-05CH11231 between the Department of Energy and the University of California, and prime contract No. DE-FG03-02ER45996. The government has certain rights in this invention.