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Ultramicroscopy. 2009 May;109(6):766-74. doi: 10.1016/j.ultramic.2009.01.015. Epub 2009 Feb 13.

Behaviour of TEM metal grids during in-situ heating experiments.

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Department of Inorganic Chemistry, Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, Faradayweg 4-6, D-14195 Berlin, Germany.


The stability of Ni, Cu, Mo and Au transmission electron microscope (TEM) grids coated with ultra-thin amorphous carbon (alpha-C) or silicon monoxide film is examined by in-situ heating up to a temperature in the range 500-850 degrees C in a transmission electron microscope. It is demonstrated that some grids can generate nano-particles either due to the surface diffusion of metal atoms on amorphous film or due to the metal evaporation/redeposition. The emergence of nano-particles can complicate experimental observations, particularly in in-situ heating studies of dynamic behaviours of nano-materials in TEM. The most widely used Cu grid covered with amorphous carbon is unstable, and numerous Cu nano-particles start to form once the heating temperature reaches 600 degrees C. In the case of Ni grid covered with alpha-C film, a large number of Ni nano-crystals occur immediately when the temperature approaches 600 degrees C, accompanied by the graphitization of amorphous carbon. In contrast, both Mo and Au grids covered with alpha-C film exhibit good stability at elevated temperature, for instance, up to 680 and 850 degrees C for Mo and Au, respectively, and any other metal nano-particles are detected. Cu grid covered Si monoxide thin film is stable up to 550 degrees C, but Si nano-crystals appear under intensive electron beam. The generated nano-particles are well characterized by spectroscopic techniques (EDXS/EELS) and high-resolution TEM. The mechanism of nano-particle formation is addressed based on the interactions between the metal grid and the amorphous carbon film and on the sublimation of metal.

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