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New tool for nanotechnology shows nanoscale changes as they happen

Nanotech progress will benefit from tools that permit direct observation of nanometer-scale structural changes in nanosystems in the timescales over which these changes occur. Dynamic Transmission Electron Microscope (DTEM) combines nanometer scale spatial resolution with 15 nanosecond temporal resolution. From DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, via AAAS EurekAlert “A snapshot of the transformation“:

Researchers have achieved a milestone in materials science and electron microscopy by taking a high-resolution snapshot of the transformation of nanoscale structures.

Using the Lab’s Dynamic Transmission Electron Microscope (DTEM), Judy Kim and colleagues peered into the microstructure and properties of reactive multilayer foils (also known as nanolaminates) with 15-nanosecond-scale resolution.

“This is the first time that a detailed study of these reactive nanolaminates has exposed what is happening in the self-propagating high-temperature synthesis zone,” Kim said.

Time-resolved images of nanolaminates show a brief change in structure with a short cellular phase separation during cooling.

Observing short-lived behavior – how a chemical reaction, structural deformation or phase transformation occurs – is not easy, but is key to understanding many of the basic phenomena at the heart of chemistry, biology and materials science. The ability to directly observe and characterize these complex events leads to a fundamental understanding of properties such as reactivity, stability and strength, and helps in the design of new and improved materials and devices.

Transmission electron microscopy has evolved dramatically in recent years and can spatially resolve microstructural details of phase and structure, but it can’t collect at times less than a millisecond.

That’s where Livermore’s DTEM comes in. It provides scientists with the ability to image transient behavior with an unprecedented combination of spatial and temporal resolution: nanometers and nanoseconds.

“Direct real-space observations of phase transformations on the nanosecond scale have allowed us to relate the formation mechanism in reactive multilayer foils to binary alloy solidification,” Kim said. “This conclusion is based upon transient features that could not have been found using any other technique.”

The research was published in Science [abstract].
—Jim

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