Publications

Exploring stability of a nanoscale complex solid solution thin film by in situ heating transmission electron microscopy

Manjón, A.G. and Zhang, S. and Völker, B. and Meischein, M. and Ludwig, Al. and Scheu, C.

MRS BULLETIN
Volume: Pages:
DOI: 10.1557/s43577-021-00217-x
Published: 2022

Abstract
Abstract: Combining thin film deposition with in situ heating electron microscopy allows to understand the thermal stability of complex solid solution nanomaterials. From a CrMnFeCoNi alloy target a thin film with an average thickness of ~10 nm was directly sputtered onto a heating chip for in situ transmission electron microscopy. We investigate the growth process and the thermal stability of the alloy and compare our results with other investigations on bulk alloys or bulk-like films thicker than 100 nm. For the chosen sputtering condition and SiNx substrate, the sputter process leads to the Stranski–Krastanov growth type (i.e., islands forming on the top of a continuous layer). Directly after sputtering, we detect two different phases, namely CoNi-rich nanoscale islands and a continuous CrMnFe-rich layer. In situ annealing of the thin film up to 700°C leads to Ostwald ripening of the islands, which is enhanced in the areas irradiated by the electron beam during heating. Besides Ostwald ripening, the chemical composition of the continuous layer and the islands changed during the heating process. After annealing, the islands are still CoNi-rich, but lower amounts of Fe and Cr are observed and Mn was completely absent. The continuous layer also changed its composition. Co and Ni were removed, and the amount of Cr lowered. These results confirm that the synthesis of a CrMnFeCoNi thin film with an average thickness of ~10 nm can lead to a different morphology, chemical composition, and stability compared to thicker films (>100 nm). Impact statement: Exploring stability of a complex solid solution thin film by in situ heating transmission electron microscopy is a study of the thermal stability of sputtered complex solid solution thin films with thicknesses of ~10 nm. Complex solid solution materials have a promising electrocatalytic behavior due to the interplay of multi-element active sites. In order to understand their catalytic properties, it is important to identify the different structure-composition-activity correlations. Thus, our investigation helps to clarify and to understand the stability of nanoscale complex solid solution with an average film thickness of ~10 nm. Graphic abstract: Combining sputter deposition with in situ heating transmission electron microscopy allows to understand the thermal stability of nanoscale complex solid solution thin films. [Figure not available: see fulltext.] © 2022, The Author(s).

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