Bragg coherent diffractive imaging of single-grain defect dynamics in polycrystalline films

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Science  19 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6339, pp. 739-742
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam6168

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Watching defects in heated thin films

The response of materials to external conditions depends on small-scale features such as defects and grain boundaries. Yau et al. heated gold thin films and used coherent x-ray diffractive imaging to track how these microstructures developed during grain growth (see the Perspective by Suter). The technique allowed nondestructive visualization of the features in three dimensions. The method should help link external stimuli to material response through changes in microstructure, thereby allowing development of novel materials through microstructural engineering.

Science, this issue p. 739; see also p. 704


Polycrystalline material properties depend on the distribution and interactions of their crystalline grains. In particular, grain boundaries and defects are crucial in determining their response to external stimuli. A long-standing challenge is thus to observe individual grains, defects, and strain dynamics inside functional materials. Here we report a technique capable of revealing grain heterogeneity, including strain fields and individual dislocations, that can be used under operando conditions in reactive environments: grain Bragg coherent diffractive imaging (gBCDI). Using a polycrystalline gold thin film subjected to heating, we show how gBCDI resolves grain boundary and dislocation dynamics in individual grains in three-dimensional detail with 10-nanometer spatial and subangstrom displacement field resolution. These results pave the way for understanding polycrystalline material response under external stimuli and, ideally, engineering particular functions.

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