Asymmetric nanoparticle oxidation observed in-situ by the evolution of diffraction contrast

AR Poerwoprajitno and N Baradwaj and MK Singh and CB Carter and DL Huber and R Kalia and J Watt, JOURNAL OF PHYSICS-MATERIALS, 6, 045013 (2023).

DOI: 10.1088/2515-7639/ad025f

The use of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to observe real-time structural and compositional changes has proven to be a valuable tool for understanding the dynamic behavior of nanomaterials. However, identifying the nanoparticles of interest typically require an obvious change in position, size, or structure, as compositional changes may not be noticeable during the experiment. Oxidation or reduction can often result in subtle volume changes only, so elucidating mechanisms in real- time requires atomic-scale resolution or in-situ electron energy loss spectroscopy, which may not be widely accessible. Here, by monitoring the evolution of diffraction contrast, we can observe both structural and compositional changes in iron oxide nanoparticles, specifically the oxidation from a wustite-magnetite (FeO@Fe3O4) core-shell nanoparticle to single crystalline magnetite, Fe3O4 nanoparticle. The in-situ TEM images reveal a distinctive light and dark contrast known as the 'Ashby- Brown contrast', which is a result of coherent strain across the core- shell interface. As the nanoparticles fully oxidize to Fe3O4, the diffraction contrast evolves and then disappears completely, which is then confirmed by modeling and simulation of TEM images. This represents a new, simplified approach to tracking the oxidation or reduction mechanisms of nanoparticles using in-situ TEM experiments.

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