The nanoreactor is a real technological tour de force that dramatically enhances the functionality of a Transmission Electron Microscope.
Before, it was not possible to make TEM-images of catalytic reactions under industrial conditions, i.e. high gas pressure and temperature, a situation known as ‘the pressure gap’. When electrons crash into gas molecules they yield blurry images. As a result, TEMs can only reach atomic-scale resolution in high vacuum. Using micro-electromechanical (MEMS) technology in the Else Kooi Laboratory, Fredrik Creemer and his co-workers were able to fabricate a nanoreactor designed for a pressure of 1 bar and a temperature up to 500 ºC. The gas channel and the heater have been integrated in the device;
Fredrik also designed a dedicated specimen holder. The ‘windows’ through which the electrons pass, have an ultrahigh level of transparency, and although being only 10 nm (!) thin, they are robust. Astonishing result: it is now possible to obtain TEM-images with a spatial resolution of 0.18 nm, for example of the live formation of copper nanoparticles in a catalyst for the production of methanol.
Packaged for insertion into a TEM
|Cross Section of one window of the reactor||Top view|