<i>In Situ</i> Atomic-Scale Observation of Droplet Coalescence Driven Nucleation and Growth at Liquid/Solid Interfaces


Unraveling dynamical processes of liquid droplets at liquid/solid interfaces and the interfacial ordering is critical to understanding solidification, liquid-phase epitaxial growth, wetting, liquid-phase joining, crystal growth, and lubrication processes, all of which are linked to different important applications in material science. In this work, we observe direct <i>in situ</i> atomic-scale behavior of Bi droplets segregated on SrBi<sub>2</sub>Ta<sub>2</sub>O<sub>9</sub> by using aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy and demonstrate ordered interface and surface structures for the droplets on the oxide at the atomic scale and unravel a nucleation mechanism involving droplet coalescence at the liquid/solid interface. We identify a critical diameter of the formed nanocrystal in stabilizing the crystalline phase and reveal lattice-induced fast crystallization of the droplet at the initial stage of the coalescence of the nanocrystal with the droplet. Further sequential observations show the stepped coalescence and growth mechanism of the nanocrystals at the atomic scale. These results offer insights into the dynamic process at liquid/solid interfaces, which may have implications for many functionalities of materials and their applications

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