Tech UPTechnologyCapture images of individual atoms 'swimming' in liquid

Capture images of individual atoms 'swimming' in liquid

A team of physicists from the UK’s National Graphene Institute have monitored the dynamics of atoms in an aqueous salt solution. Their findings could have a widespread impact on the future development of green technologies such as hydrogen production.

When a solid surface is in contact with a liquid, both substances change their configuration in response to the proximity of the other. These interactions govern the behavior of batteries and fuel cells for clean electricity generation and also determine the efficiency of clean water generation, for example.

“Given the widespread industrial and scientific importance of such behavior, it is truly surprising how much we still have to learn about the fundamentals of how atoms behave at surfaces in contact with liquids,” explained Professor Sarah Haigh , lead author of a paper. published in the journal Nature. “One of the reasons why information is lacking is the absence of techniques capable of producing experimental data for solid-liquid interfaces.”

Transmission Electron Microscopy

“In our work, we show that misleading information is provided if atomic behavior is studied in a vacuum rather than using our liquid cells ,” said co-author Nick Clark .

For their study, the authors developed a double graphene liquid cell, composed of a central molybdenum disulfide monolayer separated by hexagonal boron nitride spacers from the two enclosing graphene windows. When they analyzed how the atoms moved in the videos and compared it to theoretical knowledge, they found that the liquid speeds up the movement of the atoms and also changes their preferred resting sites relative to the underlying solid.

“This is a landmark achievement and it’s just the beginning: we are already looking to use this technique to support the development of materials for sustainable chemical processing , needed to achieve the world’s net-zero ambitions,” Clark concludes.

Referencia: N. Clark et al. Tracking single adatoms in liquid in a Transmission Electron Microscope. Nature, published online July 27, 2022; doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-05130-0

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