Laser-equipped gas reaction chamber for probing environmentally sensitive materials at near atomic scale

Khanchandani, H. and El-Zoka, A.A. and Kim, S.-H. and Tezins, U. and Vogel, D. and Sturm, A. and Raabe, D. and Gault, B. and Stephenson, L.T.

Volume: 17 Pages:
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0262543
Published: 2022

Numerous metallurgical and materials science applications depend on quantitative atomic-scale characterizations of environmentally-sensitive materials and their transient states. Studying the effect upon materials subjected to thermochemical treatments in specific gaseous atmospheres is of central importance for specifically studying a material’s resistance to certain oxidative or hydrogen environments. It is also important for investigating catalytic materials, direct reduction of an oxide, particular surface science reactions or nanoparticle fabrication routes. This manuscript realizes such experimental protocols upon a thermochemical reaction chamber called the "Reacthub" and allows for transferring treated materials under cryogenic & ultrahigh vacuum (UHV) workflow conditions for characterisation by either atom probe or scanning Xe+/electron microscopies. Two examples are discussed in the present study. One protocol was in the deuterium gas charging (25 kPa D2 at 200°C) of a high-manganese twinning-induced-plasticity (TWIP) steel and characterization of the ingress and trapping of hydrogen at various features (grain boundaries in particular) in efforts to relate this to the steel’s hydrogen embrittlement susceptibility. Deuterium was successfully detected after gas charging but most contrast originated from the complex ion FeOD+ signal and the feature may be an artefact. The second example considered the direct deuterium reduction (5 kPa D2 at 700°C) of a single crystal wüstite (FeO) sample, demonstrating that under a standard thermochemical treatment causes rapid reduction upon the nanoscale. In each case, further studies are required for complete confidence about these phenomena, but these experiments successfully demonstrate that how an ex-situ thermochemical treatment can be realised that captures environmentally-sensitive transient states that can be analysed by atomic-scale by atom probe microscope. © 2022 Khanchandani et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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