Scientists show first images of atoms ‘floating’ in liquid

(ORDO NEWS) — The movement of individual atoms through a liquid was first captured by a camera.

Using a sandwich of materials so thin that they are actually two-dimensional, the scientists caught and observed the “floating” of platinum atoms. ‘ along the surface under different pressure.

The results will help us better understand how the presence of a liquid changes the behavior of the solid with which it is in contact, which in turn has implications that could lead to the development of new substances and materials.

“Given the wide industrial and scientific significance of this behavior, it is truly amazing how much we still have to learn about the basic behavior of atoms on surfaces in contact with liquids. ,” explained materials scientist Sarah Hay from the University of Manchester in the UK.

“One of the reasons for the lack of information is the lack of methods to obtain experimental data for solid-liquid interfaces.”

When a solid and a liquid are in contact with each other, the behavior of both materials changes where they meet. These interactions are important for understanding a wide range of processes and applications, such as the transport of materials within our body or the movement of ions within batteries.

As the researchers note, it is extremely difficult to look at the world on an atomic scale. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM), which uses an electron beam to create an image, is one of the few techniques available.

Even so, obtaining reliable data on the behavior of atoms in this way was difficult. Previous work with graphene liquid cells has been promising but has yielded inconsistent results.

In addition, TEMs typically require a high vacuum environment to operate. This is a problem because many materials behave differently under different pressure conditions.

Fortunately, a form of liquid and gaseous TEM was developed, which the team used for their study. research.

The next step was to create a special set of microscope “slides” to contain the atoms. Graphene is the ideal material for these experiments because it is two-dimensional, strong, inert, and impenetrable. Building on previous work, the team has developed a dual graphene liquid cell capable of operating with existing TEM technology.

This cell was filled with a precisely controlled salt water solution containing platinum atoms, which the team watched move. on a solid surface of molybdenum disulfide.

The images revealed some interesting ideas. For example, atoms move faster in a liquid than out of it, and choose different places to rest on a solid surface.

In addition, the results inside and outside the vacuum chamber were different, suggesting that variations in ambient pressure can affect the behavior of the atoms. Moreover, the results of experiments obtained in vacuum chambers will not necessarily indicate such behavior in the real world.

“In our work, we show that when studying the behavior of atoms in a vacuum, misleading information is provided. instead of using our liquid elements,” said materials engineer Nick Clark from the University of Manchester.

“This is an important achievement, and this is just the beginning – we are already trying to use this technique to support the development of sustainable chemical processing materials needed to meet the world’s zero emissions goals.”

The material the team has studied is relevant to the production of green hydrogen, but both their methods and their results have much broader implications. consequences, the researchers said.

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