Hydrogen and Titanium Atoms in Titanium Hydride

This image reveals three pictures of titanium hydride. Left: high-angle annular dark-field (HAADF). Center: the brand new approach described within the paper, displaying each titanium and hydrogen atoms (marked blue and purple respectively) Proper: Distinction-inverted annular bright-field. Credit score: deGraaf et al, College of Groningen

College of Groningen physicists have visualized hydrogen on the titanium/titanium hydride interface utilizing a transmission electron microscope. Utilizing a brand new approach, they succeeded in visualizing each the metallic and the hydrogen atoms in a single picture, permitting them to check totally different theoretical fashions that describe the interface construction. The outcomes have been printed right this moment (January 31, 2020) within the journal Science Advances.

To grasp the properties of supplies, it’s usually important to look at their construction at an atomic decision. Visualizing atoms utilizing a transmission electron microscope (TEM) is feasible; nonetheless, up to now, nobody has succeeded in producing correct pictures of each heavy atoms and the lightest one among all (hydrogen) collectively. That is precisely what College of Groningen Professor of Nanostructured Supplies Bart Kooi and his colleagues have completed. They used a brand new TEM with capabilities that made it attainable to provide pictures of each titanium and hydrogen atoms on the titanium/titanium hydride interface.

Hydrogen atoms

The ensuing photos present how columns of hydrogen atoms fill areas between the titanium atoms, distorting the crystal construction. They occupy half of the areas, one thing which was predicted earlier. ‘Within the 1980s, three totally different fashions have been proposed for the place of hydrogen on the metallic/metallic hydride interface,’ says Kooi. ‘We have been now in a position to see for ourselves which mannequin was appropriate.’

New TEM University of Groningen

This image reveals the brand new TEM from Thermo Fisher Scientific on the College of Groningen. Credit score: College of Groningen

To create the metallic/metallic hydride interface, Kooi and his colleagues began out with titanium crystals. Atomic hydrogen was then infused and penetrated the titanium in very skinny wedges, forming tiny metallic hydride crystals. ‘In these wedges, the numbers of hydrogen and titanium atoms are the identical,’ Kooi explains. ‘The penetration of hydrogen creates a excessive stress contained in the crystal. The very skinny hydride plates trigger hydrogen embrittlement in metals, for instance inside nuclear reactors.’ The stress on the interface prevents the hydrogen from escaping.


Producing pictures of the heavy titanium and the sunshine hydrogen atoms on the interface was fairly a problem. First, the pattern was loaded with hydrogen. It ought to subsequently be seen in a selected orientation alongside the interface. This was achieved by reducing correctly aligned crystals from titanium utilizing an ion beam and making the samples thinner — to a thickness of not more than 50 nm —once more utilizing an ion beam.

New TEM Control Room

It is a image from the management room of the brand new TEM by Thermo Fisher Scientific on the College of Groningen, with Prof. Dr. Bart Kooi within the background. Credit score: College of Groningen

The visualization of each titanium and hydrogen atoms was made attainable by a number of improvements that have been included within the TEM. Heavy atoms may be visualized by the scattering that they reason behind the electrons within the microscope beam. Scattered electrons are ideally detected utilizing high-angle detectors. ‘Hydrogen is simply too mild to trigger this scattering, so for these atoms, we’ve got to depend on setting up the picture from low-angle scattering, which incorporates electron waves.’ Nevertheless, the fabric causes interference of those waves, which has up to now made the identification of hydrogen atoms virtually unimaginable.

Pc simulations

The waves are detected by a low-angle bright-field detector. The brand new microscope has a round bright-field detector that’s divided into 4 segments. By analyzing variations within the wavefronts detected in opposing segments and searching on the modifications that happen when the scanning beam crosses the fabric, it’s attainable to filter out the interferences and visualize the very mild hydrogen atoms.

‘The primary requirement is to have a microscope that may scan with an electron beam that’s smaller than the gap between the atoms. It’s subsequently the mixture of the segmented bright-field detector and the analytical software program that makes visualization attainable,’ explains Kooi, who labored in shut collaboration with scientists from the microscope’s producer, Thermo Fisher Scientific, two of whom are co-authors on the paper. Kooi’s group added numerous noise filters to the software program and examined them. Additionally they carried out intensive pc simulations, towards which they in contrast the experimental pictures.


The examine reveals the interplay between the hydrogen and the metallic, which is helpful information for the examine of supplies able to storing hydrogen. ‘Steel hydrides can retailer extra hydrogen per quantity than liquid hydrogen.’ Moreover, the strategies used to visualise the hydrogen may be utilized to different mild atoms, equivalent to oxygen, nitrogen or boron, that are essential in lots of nanomaterials. ‘With the ability to see mild atoms subsequent to heavy ones opens up every kind of alternatives.’

Reference: “Resolving hydrogen atoms at metal-metal hydride interfaces” by Sytze deGraaf, Jamo Momand, Christoph Mitterbauer, Sorin Lazar and Bart J. Kooi, 31 January 2020, Science Advances.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay4312


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