New opportunities from nanoscale materials

Professor Frances Ross uses transmission electron microscopy to watch crystals as they grow and react and scanning tunneling microscopy to measure the properties of nanomaterials. Her group records movies of these processes as they happen, which allows them to see even the most miniscule or even unexpected changes. These microscopy techniques help them explore the growth mechanisms of nanocrystals on graphene, electrochemically deposited nanostructures and catalytically grown nanowires.

Ross explains, "The way to understand how things self-assemble is to watch them do it, and that requires movies with high spatial resolution and good time resolution... Once you have made a movie of something happening, you analyze all the steps of the growth process and use that to understand which physical principles were the key ones that determined how the structure nucleated and evolved and ended up the way it did." She is excited by the ongoing advances in microscopy instrumentation, which open up intriguing opportunities for future experiments.