American Chemical Society
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Phase Transformation of GeO2 Glass to Nanocrystals under Ambient Conditions

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posted on 2018-04-18, 00:00 authored by Zhuohao Xiao, Xinyuan Sun, Xiuying Li, Yongqing Wang, Zhiqiang Wang, Bowei Zhang, Xiang Lin Li, Zexiang Shen, Ling Bing Kong, Yizhong Huang
Theoretically, the accomplishment of phase transformation requires sufficient energy to overcome the barriers of structure rearrangements. The transition of an amorphous structure to a crystalline structure is implemented traditionally by heating at high temperatures. However, phase transformation under ambient condition without involving external energy has not been reported. Here, we demonstrate that the phase transformation of GeO2 glass to nanocrystals can be triggered at ambient conditions when subjected to aqueous environments. In this case, continuous chemical reactions between amorphous GeO2 and water are responsible for the amorphous-to-crystalline transition. The dynamic evolution process is monitored by using in situ liquid-cell transmission electron microscopy, clearly revealing this phase transformation. It is the hydrolysis of amorphous GeO2 that leads to the formation of clusters with a size of ∼0.4 nm, followed by the development of dense liquid clusters, which subsequently aggregate to facilitate the nucleation and growth of GeO2 nanocrystals. Our finding breaks the traditional understanding of phase transformation and will bring about a significant revolution and contribution to the classical glass-crystallization theories.