Induced damage during STEM-EELS analyses on acrylic-based materials for Stereolithography
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DepartmentCiencia de los Materiales e Ingeniería Metalúrgica y Química Inorgánica
SourcePolymer Degradation and Stability 203 (2022) 110044
(Scanning) transmission electron microscopy, (S)TEM, offers a powerful characterization tool based on electronmatter interactions, highly valuable in materials science. However, the possible electron beam induced damage during (S)TEM measurements hinders the analysis of soft materials, such as acrylic resins. Importantly, acrylic resins offer an appealing playground for the development of novel composites with customized properties and convenient processing capabilities for 3D-printing technologies, including Stereolithography (SLA). There are several factors preventing the optimal performance of TEM measurements applied to acrylic resins, among which we focus on the quality of the analyzed specimen (i.e., compromise between thickness and robustness, to achieve electron transparency while keeping the material integrity), particularly challenging when working with soft materials; the electrostatic charging/discharging effects, resulting in sample drift and related noise/artefacts; and the radiolysis and knock-on electron-induced damage, which directly degrade the material under study. We explore and compare different methodologies to obtain resin specimens suitable for (S)TEM analysis, employed for the subsequent study of the electron–beam damage induced during STEM-EELS measurements. Furthermore, we propose likely underlying mechanisms explaining the acrylic resin degradation based on the different EELS monitored signals. On one hand, we assess the evolution of the carbon and oxygen content, as well as the material thinning as a function of the accumulated electron dose. On the other hand, we extract meaningful information from the spectral shape of carbon and oxygen K-edges upon increasing electron doses, unraveling likely degradation pathways. The earned understanding on the electron-beam induced damage and the determination of critical doses provide a useful framework for the implementation of (S)TEM techniques as useful tools to help in the smart engineering of acrylic-based composites for SLA.