A UCLA-led team of scientists has come up with groundbreaking research that can change theories about how materials change between solid, liquid and gaseous states.
They have captured the 4D movement of atoms through time and three-dimensional space. The results were quite astonishing and in contradiction with the classical theories about “nucleation” — the process where atoms change from one type to another.
How did they observe 4D atomic motion?
The researchers used the most modern 3D electron microscope at Berkeley Labs to examine iron-platinum alloys at a microscopic level. This piece of alloy was sliced at the width of 1/10,000th of a human hair.
The alloy was then heated at 968ºF to observe the transition from one solid state to another. They captured the 3D images at 9, 16, and 26 minutes while rotating the sample under the microscope.
The team used special algorithms to track the same nuclei (13 atoms wide) present in a single nanoparticle.
Physics and astronomy professor at UCLA, Jianwei “John” Miao, said: “People think it’s difficult to find a needle in a haystack. How difficult would it be to find the same atom in more than a trillion atoms at three different times?”
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Not easy at all.
What did they find?
As expected, the alloy moved from one state to another. However, nuclei had irregular shapes instead of the perfectly round ones — as stated in our long-standing theories in physics.
Moreover, the arrangement of atoms was also found to be more jumbled instead of sharp. These results may not seem like much at first glance but the truth about nucleation can solve many problems in many fields.
This could lead to the birth of more improved and stronger chemical materials and biological reactions.