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Platinum nanoparticle compression: Combining in situ TEM and atomistic modeling

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The mechanical behavior of nanoparticles governs their performance and stability in many applications. However, the small sizes of technologically relevant nanoparticles, with diameters in the range of 10 nm or less, significantly complicate experimental examination. These small nanoparticles are difficult to manipulate onto commercial test platforms and deform at loads that are below the typical noise floor of the testing instruments. Here, we synthesized small platinum nanoparticles directly onto a mechanical tester and used a modified nanomanipulator to enhance load resolution to the nanonewton scale. We demonstrated the in situ compression of an 11.5-nm platinum nanoparticle with simultaneous high-resolution measurements of load and particle morphology. Molecular dynamics simulations were performed on similarly sized particles to achieve complementary measurements of load and morphology, along with atomic resolution of dislocations. The experimental and simulation results revealed comparable values for the critical resolved shear stress for failure, 1.28 and 1.15 GPa, respectively. Overall, this investigation demonstrated the promise of, and some initial results from, the combination of atomistic simulations and in situ experiments with an unprecedented combination of high spatial resolution and high load resolution to understand the behavior of metal nanoparticles under compression.

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