Atomic-scale materials dynamics

Materials evolve over time. The changes occur in different ways both structurally, morphologically and compositionally. In most cases, the observed changes the influence the material’s function and performance, in some cases rendering them completely inactive for the specific purpose for which they were designed. The evolution of materials is mostly determined by their surroundings. This could be the oxidation of a surface, a phase transition or a morphological change. 

Our goal in the ATomic scaLe mAterialS Dynamics (ATLAS) is to understand how the surroundings influence materials’ structure and evolution. Both at the surface and in the bulk. Materials‘ structure largely dictate their functionality. Some materials can be tailored towards specific purposes or functionality. Understanding this structure-functionality relation and how it changes over time is one of the main focus points of the group.

Our main tool for investigating materials is electron microscopy and spectroscopy. We use high-resolution electron microscopy for looking at materials’ structure with a resolution better than 0.1 nm. This enables of to determine the position of the individual atoms in a structure with high precision. By simultaneously collecting the X-rays generated by the interaction of the electron beam and the sample or by analyzing the energy distribution of the electrons after passing through the sample, we can determine the composition of materials. Again with high spatial resolution. When possible, we carry out such investigation in situ meaning that we investigate materials in a state as close as possible to its operating environment.

Analyzing such structural changes is a daunting task. We use different variants of electron microscopy to study materials at different length scales. We work in close collaboration with other departments to develop novel machine learning approaches to analyze the large amounts of data typically coming from the experiments. We mainly investigate nanoparticulate matter and 2D materials.
11 APRIL 2021