Resolving hydrogen atoms at metal-metal hydride interfaces

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Science Advances  31 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 5, eaay4312
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay4312


Hydrogen as a fuel can be stored safely with high volumetric density in metals. It can, however, also be detrimental to metals, causing embrittlement. Understanding fundamental behavior of hydrogen at the atomic scale is key to improve the properties of metal-metal hydride systems. However, currently, there is no robust technique capable of visualizing hydrogen atoms. Here, we demonstrate that hydrogen atoms can be imaged unprecedentedly with integrated differential phase contrast, a recently developed technique performed in a scanning transmission electron microscope. Images of the titanium-titanium monohydride interface reveal stability of the hydride phase, originating from the interplay between compressive stress and interfacial coherence. We also uncovered, 30 years after three models were proposed, which one describes the position of hydrogen atoms with respect to the interface. Our work enables previously unidentified research on hydrides and is extendable to all materials containing light and heavy elements, including oxides, nitrides, carbides, and borides.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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