In situ electron tomography for the thermally activated solid reaction of anaerobic nanoparticles

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Royal Society Chemistry

The nanoscale characterization of thermally activated solid reactions plays a pivotal role in products manufactured by nanotechnology. Recently, in situ observation in transmission electron microscopy combined with electron tomography, namely four-dimensional observation for heat treatment of nanomaterials, has attracted great interest. However, because most nanomaterials are highly reactive, i.e., oxidation during transfer and electron beam irradiation would likely cause fatal artefacts; it is challenging to perform the artifact-free four-dimensional observation. Herein, we demonstrate our development of a novel in situ three-dimensional electron microscopy technique for thermally activated solid-state reaction processes in nanoparticles (NPs). The sintering behaviour of Cu NPs was successfully visualized and analyzed in four-dimensional space-time. An advanced image processing protocol and a newly designed state-of-the-art MEMS-based heating holder enable the implementation of considerably low electron dose imaging and prevent air exposure, which is of central importance in this type of observation. The total amount of electron dose for a single set of tilt-series images was reduced to 250 e(-) nm(-2), which is the lowest level for inorganic materials electron tomography experiments. This study evaluated the sintering behaviour of Cu NPs in terms of variations in neck growth and particle distance. A negative correlation between the two parameters is shown, except for the particle pair bound by neighbouring NPs. The nanoscale characteristic sintering behavior of neck growth was also captured in this study.

grain-growth, microscopy, densification, diffusion