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Specimen quality is vital to (scanning) transmission electron microscopy (TEM) investigations. In particular, thin specimens are required to obtain excellent high-resolution TEM images. Conventional focused ion beam (FIB) preparation methods cannot be employed to reliably create high quality specimens much thinner than 20 nm. We have developed a method for in situ target preparation of ultrathin TEM lamellae by FIB milling. With this method we are able to routinely obtain large area lamellae with coplanar faces, thinner than 10 nm. The resulting specimens are suitable for low kV TEM as well as scanning TEM. We have demonstrated atomic resolution by Cs-corrected high-resolution TEM at 20 kV on a FIB milled Si specimen only 4 nm thick; its amorphous layer measuring less than 1 nm in total.
The high surface to volume ratio of nanoparticles allows a detailed experimental study of the surface phenomena associated with solid bridging. Besides bulk analyses, the local view on the structure and composition via HRTEM is particularly essential. 50 nm core shell particles consisting of a silicon (Si) core and a SiO2 shell were used as model system to understand surface phenomena appearing for Si-based nanostructures. Evaporative drying from de-ionized water shows the most significant bridging effect based on SiO2. There is only a localized deposition of oxides between the particles during the drying process and no overall oxidation. For the deposition material, silicates are the most likely candidates.
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