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This paper reports on the substantial improvement of specimen quality by use of a low voltage (0.05 to ~1 keV), small diameter (~1 μm), argon ion beam following initial preparation using conventional broad-beam ion milling or focused ion beam. The specimens show significant reductions in the amorphous layer thickness and implanted artifacts. The targeted ion milling controls the specimen thickness according to the needs of advanced aberration-corrected and/or analytical transmission electron microscopy applications.
Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) are promising candidates for use in alternative energy technologies. A full understanding of the reaction mechanisms in these dynamic material systems is required to optimize device performance and overcome present limitations. Here, we show that in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) can be used to study redox reactions and ionic conductivity in SOFCs in a gas environment at elevated temperature. We examine model ultrathin half and complete cells in two environmental TEMs using off-axis electron holography and electron energy-loss spectroscopy. Our results from the model cells provide insight into the essential phenomena that are important for the operation of commercial devices. Changes in the activities of dopant cations in the solid electrolyte are detected during oxygen anion conduction, demonstrating the key role of dopants in electrolyte architecture in SOFCs.
A procedure based on focused ion beam milling and in situ lift-out is introduced for the preparation of high-quality specimens for in situ annealing experiments in the transmission electron microscope. The procedure allows an electron-transparent lamella to be cleaned directly on a heating chip using a low ion energy and back-side milling in order to minimize redeposition and damage. The approach is illustrated through the preparation of an Al–Mn–Fe complex metallic alloy specimen.