An Appraisal of High Resolution Scanning Electron Microscopy Applied To Porous Materials

  • Summary

Nanoporous materials such as zeolites and mesoporous silica crystals have attracted a lot of attention in recent years. In particular,the incorporation of various materials such as organic molecules, or metal nanoparticles and other inorganic compounds within their pores which give rise to fascinating new functions. For such materials, it is essential to determine their structure, composition and mechanisms of growth in order to maximize their utility in future applications. Recent progress in the performance of SEM is enormous, especially in low energy imaging where we can now directly observe fine surface structures of porous materials even those that are electrical insulators. Furthermore, by precise filtration and detection of emitted electrons by their energy, we can selectively obtain different types of information such as material composition, location of particles inside or outside the pores etc. The physical processes and technologies behind this precise tuning of landing and detection energies for both impact and emitted electrons, respectively, are explained and illustrated using a number of porous materials including zeolite LTA, SBA-15, SBA-16, zeolite LTL, FDU-16 and Au@TiO2 ' rattle spheres,' along with comparisons with other techniques such as atomic force microscopy (AFM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). We conclude that, by using extremely low landing energies, advanced sample preparation techniques and through a thorough understanding of the physical processes involved, HRSEM is providing new and unique information and perspectives on these industrially important materials.
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