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COLOURATOM Report Summary

Project ID: 335078
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Belgium

Mid-Term Report Summary - COLOURATOM (Colouring Atoms in 3 Dimensions)

Matter is a three-dimensional (3D) agglomeration of atoms. The properties of materials are determined by the positions of the atoms, their chemical nature and the bonding between them. If we are able to determine these parameters in 3D, we will be able to provide the necessary input for predicting the properties and we can guide the synthesis and development of new nanomaterials.
The aim of this project is therefore to provide a complete 3D characterisation of complex hetero-nanosystems down to the atomic scale. In the COLOURATOM project, the combination of advanced aberration corrected electron microscopy and novel 3D reconstruction algorithms is used as a groundbreaking new approach to quantify the position and the colour (chemical nature and bonding) of each individual atom in 3D for any given nanomaterial.

Since the start of the project the COLOURATOM team has developed a broad range of new experimental techniques, tools and reconstruction algorithms that have brought 3D imaging by electron microscopy to a completely new level. The new experiments that could be performed have led to a wealth of new information concerning complex nanomaterials. We have been able to measure the positions of individual atoms near atomic defects, to perform 3D strain measurements at the atomic scale, to localise atomic vacancies and to characterise interfaces in hetero-nanocrystals. Also valence changes in nanomaterials and the location of dopants could be revealed in 3D.

The 3D atomic scale information that can be obtained using the characterisation tools developed in this program highly contributes to a complete understanding of the physical behaviour of nanomaterials. Indeed, the outcome of our experiments enables one to understand and optimise the connection between the properties and the structure of the nanomaterials. In this manner, the synthesis of novel nanomaterials with predefined properties is triggered.

So far, the project resulted in almost 70 peer reviewed publications, predominantly in high impact journals. The work was furthermore presented by the PI and the other team members at several international workshops and conferences.

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