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Solidification processing offers the first opportunity to control microstructure, properties, and performance in metallic alloy components. Until recently, microstructural evaluations were limited to post-solidification characterization by destructive methods. We review the development of time-resolved, in situ imaging techniques capable of capturing solid–liquid interfacial evolution in metallic alloys with high spatial and temporal resolution under diverse solidification conditions relevant for applications ranging from conventional directional solidification, crystal growth, and casting, to welding and additive manufacturing. These experiments enable direct visualization of transient behaviors that would otherwise remain unknown, uniquely providing insights into the physics that impact microstructure and defect development, and strategies for microstructural control and defect mitigation. Understanding microstructural evolution and the characteristics that form under various solidification conditions is essential for the development of multiscale, experimentally informed predictive modeling. This is highlighted by solidification simulations that utilize in situ measurements of solidification dynamics from state-of-the-art experimental techniques.
Multiple experimental configurations for performing nanoscale orientation mapping are compared to determine their fidelity to the true microstructure of a sample. Transmission Kikuchi diffraction (TKD) experiments in a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and nanobeam diffraction (NBD) experiments in a transmission electron microscope (TEM) were performed on thin electrodeposited hard Au films with two different microstructures. The Au samples either had a grain size that is >50 or <20 nm. The same regions of the samples were measured with TKD apparatuses at 30 kV in an SEM with detectors in the horizontal and vertical configurations and in the TEM at 300 kV. Under the proper conditions, we demonstrate that all three configurations can produce data of equivalent quality. Each method has strengths and challenges associated with its application and representation of the true microstructure. The conditions needed to obtain high-quality data for each acquisition method and the challenges associated with each are discussed.
The advent of aberration correction for transmission electron microscopy has transformed atomic resolution imaging into a nearly routine technique for structural analysis. Now an emerging frontier in electron microscopy is the development of in situ capabilities to observe reactions at atomic resolution in real time and within realistic environments. Here we present a new in situ gas cell holder that is designed for compatibility with a wide variety of sample type (i.e., dimpled 3-mm discs, standard mesh grids, various types of focused ion beam lamellae attached to half grids). Its capabilities include localized heating and precise control of the gas pressure and composition while simultaneously allowing atomic resolution imaging at ambient pressure. The results show that 0.25-nm lattice fringes are directly visible for nanoparticles imaged at ambient pressure with gas path lengths up to 20 μm. Additionally, we quantitatively demonstrate that while the attainable contrast and resolution decrease with increasing pressure and gas path length, resolutions better than 0.2 nm should be accessible at ambient pressure with gas path lengths less than the 15 μm utilized for these experiments.
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