In situ TEM studies of carbon and gold nanostructures

Casillas Garcia, Gilberto
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Properties of matter change as structures go down in size to the nanoscale, creating new possibilities for creating new functional materials with better properties than the bulk. In situ TEM techniques were used to probe the properties of two different materials: atomic carbon chains and gold nanoparticles.

Carbon chains were synthesized by in situ TEM electron beam irradiation from few-layers-graphene (FLG) flakes. Several chains up to 5 nm long were observed. Aberration corrected TEM confirmed the dimerization of the linear chain as predicted by Peierls. Moreover, it was observed that two linear carbon chains can cross-bond every 9 atoms, and it was confirmed by DFT calculations.

Five-fold nanoparticles are not supposed to be stable beyond 5 nm size. Here, decahedra with high index facets in the order of 300 nm were studied by TEM. It was found that the high index facets were only stable by adding a capping agent, otherwise, smooth edges were observed. In this case, a (5x1) hexagonal surface reconstruction was observed on the {lcub}001{rcub} surfaces, with the hexagonal strings along a [110] and a [410] direction.

Additionally, mechanical properties of gold nanoparticles, with and without twin boundaries, under 100 nm were measured by in situ TEM compression experiments. All of the nanoparticles presented yield strengths in the order of GPa. Multi twinned nanoparticles were found to be more malleable, reaching real compressing strains of 100 %, while the single crystal nanoparticle presented less plastic flow. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed that the twin boundaries contribute to the malleability of the nanoparticles, at the same time it provides a mechanism to stop dislocations, hence, strain hardening the nanoparticle at later stages of compression.

Finally, the behavior of a single grain boundary was studied by in situ TEM manipulation of nanoparticles. A liquid-like behavior of a grain boundary is observed after two 40 nm gold nanoparticles are brought to contact and cold-welded. Moreover, the grain boundary freely rotates when one of the nanoparticles is moved by the nanomanipulator. Furthermore, it was possible to measure the surface diffusion coefficient of these nanoparticles by measuring the initial stages of sintering (neck growth).

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Aberration corrected STEM, Electron Microscopy, In Situ TEM, Mechanical properties, Nanoparticles
Physics and Astronomy