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Atomic-Scale Insights into the Oxidation of Aluminum

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posted on 10.01.2018, 12:49 by Lan Nguyen, Teruo Hashimoto, Dmitri N. Zakharov, Eric A. Stach, Aidan P. Rooney, Benjamin Berkels, George E. Thompson, Sarah J. Haigh, Tim L. Burnett
The surface oxidation of aluminum is still poorly understood despite its vital role as an insulator in electronics, in aluminum–air batteries, and in protecting the metal against corrosion. Here we use atomic resolution imaging in an environmental transmission electron microscope (TEM) to investigate the mechanism of aluminum oxide formation. Harnessing electron beam sputtering we prepare a pristine, oxide-free metal surface in the TEM. This allows us to study, as a function of crystallographic orientation and oxygen gas pressure, the full oxide growth regime from the first oxide nucleation to a complete saturated, few-nanometers-thick surface film.