April 3, 2013
“Jumping silicon atoms are the stars of an atomic scale ballet featured in a new Nature Communications study from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers used electron microscopy to document the ‘dancing’ motions of silicon atoms, pictured in white, in a graphene sheet.
The ORNL research team documented the atoms’ unique behavior by first trapping groups of silicon atoms, known as clusters, in a single-atom-thick sheet of carbon called graphene. The silicon clusters, composed of six atoms, were pinned in place by pores in the graphene sheet, allowing the team to directly image the material with a scanning transmission electron microscope.
The ‘dancing’ movement of the silicon atoms was caused by the energy transferred to the material from the electron beam of the team’s microscope.
‘It’s not the first time people have seen clusters of silicon,’ said coauthor Juan Carlos Idrobo. ‘The problem is when you put an electron beam on them, you insert energy into the cluster and make the atoms move around. The difference with these results is that the change that we observed was reversible. We were able to see how the silicon cluster changes its structure back and forth by having one of its atoms ‘dancing’ between two different positions.’”
See the full article here.
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.
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