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Carbon under pressure exhibits interesting traits

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Posted August 8, 2013
The experiments of Arizona State University's Jun Wu (left) and professor Peter Buseck (right) demonstrate a new way of studying materials at high pressure and temperature within an electron microscope. Hot, squeezed carbon samples provide an explanation of where large amounts of carbon reside in Earth's interior. Credit: Courtesy Jun Wu

The experiments of Arizona State University’s Jun Wu (left) and professor Peter Buseck (right) demonstrate a new way of studying materials at high pressure and temperature within an electron microscope. Hot, squeezed carbon samples provide an explanation of where large amounts of carbon reside in Earth’s interior. Credit: Courtesy Jun Wu

High pressures and temperatures cause materials to exhibit unusual properties, some of which can be special. Understanding such new properties is important for developing new materials for desired industrial uses and also for understanding the interior of Earth, where everything is hot and squeezed.

A paper in Nature Geoscience highlights a new technique in which small amounts of a sample can be studied while being hot and squeezed within an electron microscope. Use of such a microscopy method permits determination of details down to the scale of a few atoms, including the detection of unexpected atom types or atoms in unexpected places, as within a mineral.

Jun Wu and Peter Buseck, the paper’s authors, both at Arizona State University, conducted the research on campus at the J.M. Cowley Center for High Resolution Electron Microscopy of the LeRoy Eyring Center for Solid State Science. The researchers used tiny containers of carbon, less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair and therefore small enough to fit within high-resolution electron microscopes, to enclose materials similar to those deep within Earth. They then used the electron beam to shrink and thereby squeeze these minuscule capsules. When combined with heating of the samples, new features were observed in the enclosed materials.

Read more at: Phys.org

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