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Metal–silicate partitioning studies performed in high-pressure, laser-heated diamond anvil cells (DAC) are commonly used to explore element distribution during planetary-scale core–mantle differentiation. The small run-products contain suitable areas for analysis commonly less than tens of microns in diameter and a few microns thick. Because high spatial resolution is required, quantitative chemical analyses of the quenched phases is usually performed by electron probe microanalysis (EPMA). Here, EPMA is being used at its spatial limits, and sample thickness and secondary fluorescence effects must be accounted for. By using simulations and synthetic samples, we assess the validity of these measurements, and find that in most studies DAC sample wafers are sufficiently thick to be characterized at 15 kVacc. Fluorescence from metal-hosted elements will, however, contaminate silicate measurements, and this becomes problematic if the concentration contrast between the two phases is in excess of 100. Element partitioning experiments are potentially compromised; we recommend simulating fluorescence and applying a data correction, if required, to such DAC studies. Other spurious analyses may originate from sources external to the sample, as exemplified by 0.5 to >1 wt% of Cu arising from continuum fluorescence of the Cu TEM grid the sample is typically mounted on.
Scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) is widely used for imaging, diffraction, and spectroscopy of materials down to atomic resolution. Recent advances in detector technology and computational methods have enabled many experiments that record a full image of the STEM probe for many probe positions, either in diffraction space or real space. In this paper, we review the use of these four-dimensional STEM experiments for virtual diffraction imaging, phase, orientation and strain mapping, measurements of medium-range order, thickness and tilt of samples, and phase contrast imaging methods, including differential phase contrast, ptychography, and others.
2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the introduction of energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS) with semiconductor detectors to electron-excited X-ray microanalysis. Initially useful for qualitative analysis, EDS has developed into a fully quantitative analytical tool that can match wavelength dispersive spectrometry for accuracy in the determination of major (mass concentration C > 0.1) and minor (0.01 ≤ C ≤ 0.1) constituents, and useful accuracy can extend well into the trace (0.001 < C < 0.01) constituent range even when severe peak interference occurs. Accurate analysis is possible for low atomic number elements (B, C, N, O, and F), and at low beam energy, which can optimize lateral and depth spatial resolution. By recording a full EDS spectrum at each picture element of a scan, comprehensive quantitative compositional mapping can also be performed.
Metal chalcogenides have attracted great attention because of their broad applications. It has been well acknowledged that microstructure can alter the intrinsic properties and performance of metal chalcogenides. The structure–property–performance relationships can be investigated at atomic scale with scanning transmission and transmission electron microscopy (STEM and TEM). Nevertheless, careful specimen preparation is paramount for accurate analyses and interpretations. In this work, we compare the effects of a variety of well-established TEM specimen preparation methods on the observed microstructure of an ingot stoichiometric lead telluride (PbTe). Most importantly, from aberration corrected STEM and first principles calculations, we discovered that argon (Ar) ion milling can lead to surface irradiation damage in the form of Pb vacancy clusters and self-interstitial atom (SIA) clusters. The SIA clusters appear as orthogonal nanoscale features when characterized along the <001> crystal orientation of the rock salt structured PbTe. This obfuscates the interpretation of the intrinsic microstructure of metal chalcogenides, especially lead chalcogenides. We demonstrate that with sufficiently low energy (300 eV) Ar ion cleaning or appropriate high-temperature annealing, the surface damage layer can be properly cleaned and the orthogonal nanoscale features are significantly reduced. This reveals the materials’ intrinsic structure and can be used as the standard protocol for future TEM specimen preparation of lead-based chalcogenide materials.
From simple averaging to more sophisticated registration and restoration strategies, such as super-resolution (SR), there exist different computational techniques that use a series of images of the same object to generate enhanced images where noise and other distortions have been reduced. In this work, we provide qualitative and quantitative measurements of this enhancement for high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy imaging. These images are compared in two ways, qualitatively through visual inspection in real and reciprocal space, and quantitatively, through the calculation of objective measurements, such as signal-to-noise ratio and atom column roundness. Results show that these techniques improve the quality of the images. In this paper, we use an SR methodology that allows us to take advantage of the information present in the image frames and to reliably facilitate the analysis of more difficult regions of interest in experimental images, such as surfaces and interfaces. By acquiring a series of cross-sectional experimental images of magnetite (Fe3O4) thin films (111), we have generated interpolated images using averaging and SR, and reconstructed the atomic structure of the very top surface layer that consists of a full monolayer of Fe, with topmost Fe atoms in tetrahedrally coordinated sites.
Electrochemical liquid cell transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is a unique technique for probing nanocatalyst behavior during operation for a range of different electrocatalytic processes, including hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), oxygen evolution reaction (OER), oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), or electrochemical CO2 reduction (eCO2R). A major challenge to the technique's applicability to these systems has to do with the choice of substrate, which requires a wide inert potential range for quantitative electrochemistry, and is also responsible for minimizing background gas generation in the confined microscale environment. Here, we report on the feasibility of electrochemical experiments using the standard redox couple Fe(CN)63−/4− and microchips featuring carbon-coated electrodes. We electrochemically assess the in situ performance with respect to flow rate, liquid volume, and scan rate. Equally important with the choice of working substrate is the choice of the reference electrode. We demonstrate that the use of a modified electrode setup allows for potential measurements relatable to bulk studies. Furthermore, we use this setup to demonstrate the inert potential range for carbon-coated electrodes in aqueous electrolytes for HER, OER, ORR, and eCO2R. This work provides a basis for understanding electrochemical measurements in similar microscale systems and for studying gas-generating reactions with liquid electrochemical TEM.
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is typically used for analysis of relatively flat surfaces with topographic features smaller than the height of the AFM tip. On flat surfaces, it is relatively easy to find the object of interest and deconvolute imaging artifacts resulting from the finite size of the AFM tip. In contrast, AFM imaging of three-dimensional objects much larger than the AFM tip height is rarely attempted although it could provide topographic information that is not readily available from two-dimensional imaging, such as scanning electron microscopy. In this paper, we report AFM measurements of a vertically-mounted razor blade, which is taller and sharper than the AFM tip. In this case, the AFM height data, except for the data collected around the cutting edge of the blade, reflect the shape of the AFM tip. The height data around the apex area are effectively the convolution of the AFM tip and the blade cutting edge. Based on computer simulations mimicking an AFM tip scanning across a round sample, a simple algorithm is proposed to deconvolute the AFM height data of an object taller and sharper than the AFM tip and estimate its effective curvature.
Binary Fe–Cu alloys are effective prototypes for investigating radiation-induced formation and growth of nanometric Cu-rich precipitates (CRPs) in nuclear reactor pressure vessels. In this report, the temporal evolution of CRPs during thermal aging of Fe–Cu binary alloys has been investigated by using complementary techniques such as atom probe tomography (APT) and small-angle neutron scattering (SANS). We report a detailed quantitative evolution of a rarely observed morphological transformation of Cu precipitates from spherical to ellipsoid with a significant change (approximately two times) in aspect ratio, an effect known to be associated with the 9R-3R structural transition of the precipitates. It is demonstrated through APT that the precipitates remain spherical up to 8 h, however, they subsequently convert to oblate ellipsoid upon further aging. SANS analysis also detected signs of this morphological transition in reciprocal space. Furthermore, SANS quantifies evolution of the precipitates and corroborates well with the APT results. Interestingly, the power-law exponent of the temporal evolution for mean size and number density agree reasonably well with the Lifshitz–Slyozov–Wagner model, in spite of the complex morphological evolution of the precipitates.
CISCEM 2018 - 4th Conference on In-Situ and Correlative Electron Microscopy; October 10 - 12, 2018, Saarbrücken, Germany
We employed correlative atom probe tomography (APT) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to analyze the alumina scale thermally grown on the oxide dispersion-strengthened alloy MA956. Segregation of Ti and Y and associated variation in metal/oxygen stoichiometry at the grain boundaries and triple junctions of alumina were quantified and discussed with respect to the oxidation behavior of the alloy, in particular, to the formation of cation vacancies. Correlative TEM analysis was helpful to avoid building pragmatically well-looking but substantially incorrect APT reconstructions, which can result in erroneous quantification of segregating species, and highlights the need to consider ionic volumes and detection efficiency in the reconstruction routine. We also demonstrate a cost-efficient, robust, and easy-handling setup for correlative analysis based solely on commercially available components, which can be used with all conventional TEM tools without the need to modify the specimen holder assembly.
In this study, we have examined ceramic matrix composites with silicon carbide fibers in a melt-infiltrated silicon carbide matrix (SiC/SiC). We subjected samples to tensile loads while collecting micro X-ray computed tomography images. The results showed the expected crack slowing mechanisms and lower resistance to crack propagation where the fibers ran parallel and perpendicular to the applied load respectively. Cracking was shown to initiate not only from the surface but also from silicon inclusions. Post heat-treated samples showed longer fiber pull-out than the pristine samples, which was incompatible with previously proposed mechanisms. Evidence for oxidation was identified and new mechanisms based on oxidation or an oxidation assisted boron nitride phase transformation was therefore proposed to explain the long pull-out. The role of oxidation emphasizes the necessity of applying oxidation resistant coatings on SiC/SiC.
The atom-probe field ion microscope was introduced in 1967 at the 14th Field Emission Symposium held at the National Bureau of Standards (now, NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The atom-probe field ion microscope was, and remains, the only instrument capable of determining “the nature of one single atom seen on a metal surface and selected from neighboring atoms at the discretion of the observer”. The development of the atom-probe is a story of an instrument that one National Science Foundation (NSF) reviewer called “impossible because single atoms could not be detected”. It is also a story of my life with Erwin Wilhelm Müller as his graduate student in the Field Emission Laboratory at the Pennsylvania State University in the late 1960s and his strong and volatile personality, perhaps fostered by his pedigree as Gustav Hertz’s student in the Berlin of the 1930s. It is the story that has defined by scientific career.
An improved reconstruction method for atom probe tomography is presented. In this approach, the curvature of the field emitter is variable, in contrast to the conventional reconstruction technique. The information about the tip shape at different stages of the reconstruction is directly extracted from the local density of events on the detector. To this end, the detector and the tip surface are split into different segments. According to the density distribution of events observed on the detector, the size of the corresponding segment on the tip surface is calculated, yielding an emitter profile which is not necessarily spherical. The new approach is demonstrated for emitter structures with radial symmetry that contain a spherical precipitate with a substantially lower or higher evaporation field compared to the surrounding matrix. A comparison to the conventional point projection approach is made.
Spheroids—three-dimensional aggregates of cells grown from a cancer cell line—represent a model of living tissue for chemotherapy investigation. Distribution of chemotherapeutics in spheroid sections was determined using the matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI MSI). Proliferating or apoptotic cells were immunohistochemically labeled and visualized by laser scanning confocal fluorescence microscopy (LSCM). Drug efficacy was evaluated by comparing coregistered MALDI MSI and LSCM data of drug-treated spheroids with LSCM only data of untreated control spheroids. We developed a fiducial-based workflow for coregistration of low-resolution MALDI MS with high-resolution LSCM images. To allow comparison of drug and cell distribution between the drug-treated and untreated spheroids of different shapes or diameters, we introduced a common diffusion-related coordinate, the distance from the spheroid boundary. In a procedure referred to as “peeling”, we correlated average drug distribution at a certain distance with the average reduction in the affected cells between the untreated and the treated spheroids. This novel approach makes it possible to differentiate between peripheral cells that died due to therapy and the innermost cells which died naturally. Two novel algorithms—for MALDI MS image denoising and for weighting of MALDI MSI and LSCM data by the presence of cell nuclei—are also presented.
Low voltage electron probe microanalysis (EPMA) of metals can be complicated by the presence of a surface oxide. If a conductive coating is applied, analysis becomes one of a three-layer structure. A method is presented which allows for the coating and oxide thicknesses and the substrate intensities to be determined. By restricting the range of coating and oxide thicknesses, tc and to respectively, x-ray intensities can be parameterized using a combination of linear functions of tc and to. tc can be determined from the coating element k-ratio independently of the oxide thickness. to can then be derived from the O k-ratio and tc. From tc and to the intensity components of the k-ratios from the oxide layer and substrate can each be derived. Modeled results are presented for an Ag on Bi2O3 on Bi system, with tc and to each ranging from 5 to 20 nm, for voltages of 5–20 kV. The method is tested against experimental measurements of Ag- or C-coated samples of polished Bi samples which have been allowed to naturally oxidize. Oxide thicknesses determined both before and after coating with Ag or C are consistent. Predicted Bi Mα k-ratios also show good agreement with EPMA-measured values.
CISCEM 2018 - 4th Conference on In-Situ and Correlative Electron Microscopy; October 10 - 12, 2018, Saarbrücken, Germany