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ACS Nano. 2013 Jan 22;7(1):732-9. doi: 10.1021/nn305029b. Epub 2012 Dec 31.

Direct atomic-scale imaging of hydrogen and oxygen interstitials in pure niobium using atom-probe tomography and aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


Imaging the three-dimensional atomic-scale structure of complex interfaces has been the goal of many recent studies, due to its importance to technologically relevant areas. Combining atom-probe tomography and aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), we present an atomic-scale study of ultrathin (~5 nm) native oxide layers on niobium (Nb) and the formation of ordered niobium hydride phases near the oxide/Nb interface. Nb, an elemental type-II superconductor with the highest critical temperature (T(c) = 9.2 K), is the preferred material for superconducting radio frequency (SRF) cavities in next-generation particle accelerators. Nb exhibits high solubilities for oxygen and hydrogen, especially within the RF-field penetration depth, which is believed to result in SRF quality factor losses. STEM imaging and electron energy-loss spectroscopy followed by ultraviolet laser-assisted local-electrode atom-probe tomography on the same needle-like sample reveals the NbO(2), Nb(2)O(5), NbO, Nb stacking sequence; annular bright-field imaging is used to visualize directly hydrogen atoms in bulk β-NbH.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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