Friday, March 12, 2021
Dott.ssa Marta Agati

Gazing at materials through TEM: a step towards fundamental understanding

The extent to which technology has been pervading our life in the last decades is incredibly impressing. The roadmap towards devices with scaled features has been advancing at an amazing pace, aiming at integrated-circuits miniaturization down to the nanoscale. With the advent of functional devices, the applications have also overflown the boundary of mere micro-electronics, and encompass biomedicine, photovoltaics, sensors and solid-state lightening. The recent concepts of Internet-of-Things and Internet-of-People have introduced a real paradigm shift for the society and, beyond their marketing potentials, will bring benefits for the people. In this scenario, Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) has uncovered its transversal role as one of the techniques that allows characterizing the materials needed for all these applications down to the atomic scale. The advances in aberration correction, in-situ experiments, resolving power, cryo-related techniques and signal acquisition strategies (to cite a few) have provided this instrument with unique capabilities for and beyond material science. Despite such technology-driven excitement, scientists working with TEM are also driven by a fundamental quest to understand the matter and its working principles. In this regard, this talk will overview some examples, encountered during my past experiences, for which TEM has revealed its potential not only as a mere characterization tool, but also to get fundamental insights into the investigated materials. We will see some examples of the three following categories:

  1. Nanostructures (Silicon Nanowires, CuO and Zn-Sn nanomaterials)
  2. Thin films (Ge-rich chalcogenides films)
  3. Bulk materials (Silicon Carbide thick films).

We will conclude that TEM may open the route towards a major understanding of material science, which is the key to deliver technological advances.