Direct Observation Through In Situ Transmission Electron Microscope of Early States of Crystallization in Nanoscale Metallic Glasses
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Crystallization is a complex process that involves multiscale physics such as diffusion of atomic species over multiple length scales, thermodynamic energy considerations, and multiple possible intermediate states. In situ crystallization experiments inside a transmission electron microscope (TEM) using nanostructured metallic glasses (MGs) provide a unique platform to study directly crystallization kinetics and pathways. Here, we study the embryonic state of eutectic growth using Pt-Ni-Cu-P MG nanorods under in situ TEM. We directly observe the nucleation and growth of a Ni-rich polymorphic phase, followed by the nucleation and slower growth of a Cu-rich phase. The suppressed growth kinetics of the Cu-rich phase is attributed to locally changing chemical compositions. In addition, we show that growth can be controlled by incorporation of an entire nucleus instead of individual atoms. Such a nucleus has to align with the crystallographic orientation of a larger grain before it can be incorporated into the crystal. By directly observing the crystallization processes, particularly the early stages of non-polymorphic growth, in situ TEM crystallization studies of MG nanostructures provide a wealth of information, some of which can be applied to typical bulk crystallization.