FEI Titan ETEM shows chemistry and nanoscale catalysis at the atomic level

June 23, 2008FEI Company, a provider of high-resolution imaging and analysis systems, has released the Titan 80-300 environmental transmission electron microscope (ETEM), a solution for chemical research at the atomic scale. The Titan ETEM is a significant advance for studying materials and processes of importance in the fields of energy and environment. It is the newest member of FEI’s Titan TEM family, a line of powerful commercially-available microscopes for direct observation with sub-Ångström resolution.
“The ETEM lets us look directly at the fundamental, atomic scale mechanisms of our catalytic processes,” says Dr. Alfons M. Molenbroek, head of the characterization department, R&D division, Haldor Topsoe, a supplier of heterogeneous catalysts and catalytic processes, and an early adopter of ETEM technology for industrial research. “Heterogeneous catalysts are typically solid particles that catalyze reactions between gas or liquid phase reactants. Conventional TEM can give us high-resolution images of the particles in a vacuum, but only ETEM lets us look at the catalytic process itself, with the particle immersed in a gaseous environment. We expect to achieve dramatic advances in our fundamental understanding of our core catalyst technologies.”
The Titan ETEM’s ability to image the sample in a controlled gaseous environment allows scientists to investigate the fundamental atomic mechanisms of gas-solid reactions, such as carbon nanotube growth, crystal nucleation and growth, heterogeneous catalysis and many other economically-significant processes. Catalysts, for instance, are important in production of fuels, reduction of environmentally-harmful combustion products, and generally throughout the chemical industry for applications concerning energy and the environment.
“The Titan is the first and only ETEM solution for studying nanoscale processes with atomic detail in a spherical aberration-corrected S/TEM,” adds FEI’s Dominique Hubert, vice president and general manager, research division. “Users may be chemists, concerned with the reaction itself; materials scientists, interested in the effects of a gaseous environment; or they may be involved in a myriad other disciplines.”
At the core of Titan ETEM’s capabilities is its ability to deliver high-resolution imaging with gas pressures in the sample chamber as high as a few percent of atmospheric pressure. Conventional TEMs require high-vacuum conditions with pressure levels a thousand to a million times lower. A gas controller permits precise control of composition as well as pressure. Heating and cooling holders provide control over a range of temperatures. The ability to select electron beam voltages anywhere between 80 and 300 kilovolts (kV) accommodates a wide range of material and imaging conditions.


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