Scanning AC Nanocalorimetry and Its Applications

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Scanning AC Nanocalorimetry and Its Applications

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Title: Scanning AC Nanocalorimetry and Its Applications
Author: Xiao, Kechao
Citation: Xiao, Kechao. 2015. Scanning AC Nanocalorimetry and Its Applications. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: This thesis presents an AC nanocalorimetry technique that enables calorimetry measurements on very small quantities of materials over a wide range of scanning rates (from isothermal to 3×10^3 K/s), temperatures (up to 1200 K), and environments. Such working range bridges the gap between traditional scanning calorimetry of bulk materials and nanocalorimetry. The method relies on a micromachined nanocalorimeter with negligible thermal lags between heater, thermometer, and sample. The ability to perform calorimetry measurements over such a broad range of scanning rates makes it an ideal tool to characterize the kinetics of phase transformations, reactions at elevated temperatures or to explore the behavior of materials far from equilibrium. We demonstrate the technique by performing measurements on thin-film samples of Sn, In, and Bi with thicknesses ranging from 100 to 300 nm. The experimental heat capacities and melting temperatures agree well with literature values. The measured heat capacities are insensitive to the applied AC frequency, scan rate, and heat loss to the environment over a broad range of experimental conditions.
The dynamic range of scanning AC nanocalorimetry enables the combination of nanocalorimetry with in-situ x-ray diffraction (XRD) to facilitate interpretation of the calorimetry measurements. Time-resolved XRD during in-situ operation of nanocalorimetry sensors using intense, high-energy synchrotron radiation allows unprecedented characterization of thermal and structural material properties. We demonstrate this experiment with detailed characterization of the melting and solidification of elemental Bi, In and Sn thin-film samples, using heating and cooling rates up to 300 K/s.
By combining scanning DC and AC nano-calorimetry techniques, we study the nucleation behavior of undercooled liquid Bi at cooling rates ranging from 10^1 to 10^4 K/s. Upon initial melting, the Bi thin-film sample breaks up into isolated islands. The number of islands in a typical sample is sufficiently large that highly repeatable nucleation behavior is observed, despite the stochastic nature of the nucleation process. We establish a data reduction technique to evaluate the nucleation rate from DC and AC calorimetry results. The results show that the driving force for the nucleation of melted Bi is well described by classical nucleation theory over a wide range of cooling rates. The proposed technique provides a unique and efficient way to examine nucleation kinetics with cooling rates over several orders of magnitude. The technique is quite general and can be used to evaluate reaction kinetics in other materials.
Lastly, we apply the scanning AC nanocalorimetry technique to study solid-gas phase reactions by measuring the change in heat capacity of a sample during reaction. We apply this approach to evaluate the oxidation kinetics of thin-film samples of zirconium in air. The results confirm parabolic oxidation kinetics with an activation energy of 0.59±0.03 eV. The nano-calorimetry measurements were performed using a device that contains an array of micromachined nano-calorimeter sensors in an architecture designed for combinatorial studies. We demonstrate that the oxidation kinetics can be quantified using a single sample, thus enabling high-throughput mapping of the composition-dependence of the reaction rate.
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