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Gold Nanocrystal Etching As A Means Of Probing The Dynamic Chemical Environment In Graphene Liquid Cell Electron Microscopy.

Matthew R Hauwiller, Justin C Ondry, Cindy M Chan, Prachi Khandekar, Jessica Yu, A. Alivisatos
Published 2019 · Chemistry, Medicine

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Graphene liquid cell electron microscopy has the necessary temporal and spatial resolution to enable the in situ observation of nanoscale dynamics in solution. However, the chemistry of the solution in the liquid cell during imaging is as yet poorly understood due to the generation of a complex mixture of radiolysis products by the electron beam. In this work, the etching trajectories of nanocrystals were used as a probe to determine the effect of the electron beam dose rate and preloaded etchant, FeCl3, on the chemistry of the liquid cell. Initially, illuminating the sample at a low electron beam dose rate generates hydrogen bubbles, providing a reservoir of sacrificial reductant. Increasing the electron beam dose rate leads to a constant etching rate that varies linearly with the electron beam dose rate. Comparing these results with the oxidation potentials of the species in solution, the electron beam likely controls the total concentration of oxidative species in solution and FeCl3 likely controls the relative ratio of oxidative species, independently determining the etching rate and chemical potential of the reaction, respectively. Correlating these liquid cell etching results with the ex situ oxidative etching of gold nanocrystals using FeCl3 provides further insight into the liquid cell chemistry while corroborating the liquid cell dynamics with ex situ synthetic behavior. This understanding of the chemistry in the liquid cell will allow researchers to better control the liquid cell electron microscopy environment, allowing new nanoscale materials science experiments to be conducted systematically in a reproducible manner.
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