Nav: Home

Researchers develop spectroscopic thermometer for nanomaterials

March 13, 2018

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., March 13, 2018--A scientific team led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has found a new way to take the local temperature of a material from an area about a billionth of a meter wide, or approximately 100,000 times thinner than a human hair.

This discovery, published in Physical Review Letters, promises to improve the understanding of useful yet unusual physical and chemical behaviors that arise in materials and structures at the nanoscale. The ability to take nanoscale temperatures could help advance microelectronic devices, semiconducting materials and other technologies, whose development depends on mapping the atomic-scale vibrations due to heat.

The study used a technique called electron energy gain spectroscopy in a newly purchased, specialized instrument that produces images with both high spatial resolution and great spectral detail. The 13-foot-tall instrument, made by Nion Co., is named HERMES, short for High Energy Resolution Monochromated Electron energy-loss spectroscopy-Scanning transmission electron microscope.

Atoms are always shaking. The higher the temperature, the more the atoms shake. Here, the scientists used the new HERMES instrument to measure the temperature of semiconducting hexagonal boron nitride by directly observing the atomic vibrations that correspond to heat in the material. The team included partners from Nion (developer of HERMES) and Protochips (developer of a heating chip used for the experiment).

"What is most important about this 'thermometer' that we have developed is that temperature calibration is not needed," said physicist Juan Carlos Idrobo of the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at ORNL.

Other thermometers require prior calibration. To make temperature graduation marks on a mercury thermometer, for example, the manufacturer needs to know how much mercury expands as the temperature rises.

"ORNL's HERMES instead gives a direct measurement of temperature at the nanoscale," said Andrew Lupini of ORNL's Materials Science and Technology Division. The experimenter needs only to know the energy and intensity of an atomic vibration in a material--both of which are measured during the experiment.

These two features are depicted as peaks, which are used to calculate a ratio between energy gain and energy loss. "From this we get a temperature," Lupini explained. "We don't need to know anything about the material beforehand to measure temperature."

In 1966, also in Physical Review Letters, H. Boersch, J. Geiger and W. Stickel published a demonstration of electron energy gain spectroscopy, at a larger length scale, and pointed out that the measurement should depend upon the temperature of the sample. Based on that suggestion, the ORNL team hypothesized that it should be possible to measure a nanomaterial's temperature using an electron microscope with an electron beam that is "monochromated" or filtered to select energies within a narrow range.

To perform electron energy gain and loss spectroscopy experiments, scientists place a sample material in the electron microscope. The microscope's electron beam goes through the sample, with the majority of electrons barely interacting with the sample. In electron energy loss spectroscopy, the beam loses energy as it passes through the sample, whereas in energy gain spectroscopy, the electrons gain energy from interacting with the sample.

"The new HERMES lets us look at very tiny energy losses and even very small amounts of energy gain by the sample, which are even harder to observe because they are less likely to happen," Idrobo said. "The key to our experiment is that statistical physical principles tell us that it is more likely to observe energy gain when the sample is heated. That is precisely what allowed us to measure the temperature of the boron nitride. The monochromated electron microscope enables this from nanoscale volumes. The ability to probe such exquisite physical phenomena at these tiny scales is why ORNL purchased the HERMES."

ORNL scientists are constantly pushing the capabilities of electron microscopes to allow new ways of conducting forefront research. When Nion electron microscope developer Ondrej Krivanek asked Idrobo and Lupini, "Wouldn't it be fun to try electron energy gain spectroscopy?" they jumped at the chance to be the first to explore this capability of their HERMES instrument.

Nanoscale resolution makes it possible to characterize the local temperature during phase transitions in materials--an impossibility with techniques that do not have the spatial resolution of HERMES spectroscopy. For example, an infrared camera is limited by the wavelength of infrared light to much larger objects.

Whereas in this experiment the scientists tested nanoscale environments at room temperature to about 1300 degrees Celsius (2372 degrees Fahrenheit), the HERMES could be useful for studying devices working across a wide range of temperatures, for example, electronics that operate under ambient conditions to vehicle catalysts that perform over 300 C/600 F.
The title of the paper is "Temperature Measurement by a Nanoscale Electron Probe Using Energy Gain and Loss Spectroscopy."

Funding came from the Department of Energy Office of Science.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE's Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Related Science Articles:

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
AAAS and March for Science partner to uphold science
AAAS, the world's largest general scientific organization, announced Thursday that it will partner with the March for Science, a nonpartisan set of activities that aim to promote science education and the use of scientific evidence to inform policy.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
Danforth Plant Science Center & Valent BioSciences collaborate in root science initiative
A Master Agreement will focus on improving agriculture with non-destructive imaging technology for root growth dynamics.
2016 Cool Science Image contest: Amazing pictures tell tales of science, nature
Ten images and two videos by University of Wisconsin-Madison students, faculty and staff have been named winners of the 2016 Cool Science Image contest.
National Science Foundation and Popular Science announce 2016 Vizzies winners
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Popular Science magazine today announced the winners of the 2016 Vizzies, awards that celebrate the use of visual media to clearly and accessibly communicate scientific data and research.
Over 900 science leaders from over 100 countries gather at the World Science Forum 2015 Budapest calling for a more responsible and ethical use of science to address pressing global challenges in environment and health
At the Opening Ceremony of World Science Forum 2015 under the theme of 'The Enabling Power of Science' a panel of global thought-leaders declared renewed intent to fight poverty and promote just, equitable and inclusive social development based on the restoration, protection and sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystems.
AAAS to expand the Science family of journals by launching 2 new journals -- Science Robotics and Science Immunology
In keeping with its mission to advance scientific progress and innovation, the world's largest general scientific organization -- the American Association for the Advancement of Science -- today announced plans for two new peer-reviewed journals, Science Robotics and Science Immunology.

Related Science Reading:

The Science Book: Everything You Need to Know About the World and How It Works
by National Geographic (Author), Marshall Brain (Foreword)

The Science Book: Everything You Need to Know About the World and How It Works encapsulates centuries of scientific thought in one volume. Natural phenomena, revolutionary inventions, scientific facts, and the most up-to-date questions are all explained in detailed text that is complemented by visually arresting graphics.
Six major sections ranging from the universe and the planet Earth to biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics are further broken down into subsections that encompass everything from microscopic life to nuclear power.
The Science Book... View Details

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
by Rachel Ignotofsky (Author)

It’s a scientific fact: Women rock!
A charmingly illustrated and educational book, New York Times best seller Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary. The trailblazing women profiled include well-known... View Details

Everything You Need to Ace Science in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide (Big Fat Notebooks)
by Workman Publishing (Author), Editors of Brain Quest (Draft Writer)

It’s the revolutionary science study guide just for middle school students from the brains behind Brain Quest.
Everything You Need to Ace Science . . . takes readers from scientific investigation and the engineering design process to the Periodic Table; forces and motion; forms of energy; outer space and the solar system; to earth sciences, biology, body systems, ecology, and more.

The BIG FAT NOTEBOOK™ series is built on a simple and irresistible conceit—borrowing the notes from the smartest kid in class. There are five books in all, and... View Details

Science (LEGO Nonfiction): A LEGO Adventure in the Real World
by Penelope Arlon (Author)

Did you know that the blue whale could blow up 1,250 balloons in a single breath? Or that the Earth's core is as hot as the surface of the sun?

Including information about almost every scientific topic in the universe, readers will find out everything they ever wanted to know about fascinating animals, electricity, energy, weather, our galaxy, technology of tomorrow, and so much more. They'll even meet real-life scientists and read all about their exciting work. Complete with hundreds of stunning photographs, fun facts, mini comics, and building ideas, LEGO Science is the... View Details

Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy
by Robert M. Hazen (Author), James Trefil (Author)

Knowledge of the basic ideas and principles of science is fundamental to cultural literacy. But most books on science are often too obscure or too specialized to do the general reader much good.

Science Matters is a rare exception-a science book for the general reader that is informative enough to be a popular textbook for introductory courses in high school and college, and yet well-written enough to appeal to general readers uncomfortable with scientific jargon and complicated mathematics. And now, revised and expanded for the first time in nearly two decades, it is... View Details

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
by Peter C. Brown (Author), Henry L. Roediger III (Author), Mark A. McDaniel (Author)

To most of us, learning something "the hard way" implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners.

Memory plays a central role in our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks, such as applying knowledge to problems never... View Details

The Science of Interstellar
by Kip Thorne (Author), Christopher Nolan (Foreword)

A journey through the otherworldly science behind Christopher Nolan’s award-winning film, Interstellar, from executive producer and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Kip Thorne.

Interstellar, from acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, takes us on a fantastic voyage far beyond our solar system. Yet in The Science of Interstellar, Kip Thorne, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who assisted Nolan on the scientific aspects of Interstellar, shows us that the movie’s jaw-dropping events and stunning, never-before-attempted visuals are... View Details

Cracking the AP Environmental Science Exam, 2018 Edition: Proven Techniques to Help You Score a 5 (College Test Preparation)
by Princeton Review (Author)

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO HELP SCORE A PERFECT 5. Equip yourself to ace the AP Environmental Science Exam with this comprehensive study guide—including thorough content reviews, targeted strategies for every question type, access to our AP Connect portal online, and 2 full-length practice tests with complete answer explanations. 

Written by the experts at The Princeton Review, Cracking the AP Environmental Science Exam arms you to take on the test and achieve your highest possible score.

Techniques That Actually Work.
• Tried-and-true... View Details

The Sacred Science: An Ancient Healing Path for the Modern World
by Nick Polizzi (Author)

In 2010, Nick Polizzi did something unimaginable. He assembled a group of eight desperately ill patients from around the world and brought them into the heart of the Amazon rainforest to put the mysterious medicines of native shamans to the test.

The healing journey that unfolded would change their lives—and his own—forever.

In The Sacred Science, we join Nick as he explores these primordial traditions and learns firsthand what it takes to truly heal ourselves of physical disease, emotional trauma, and the sense of “lostness” that so many of us feel in these... View Details

AP® Computer Science Principles Crash Course (Advanced Placement (AP) Crash Course)
by Jacqueline Corricelli (Author)

AP® Computer Science Principles Crash Course®

A Higher Score in Less Time!

REA's AP® Computer Science Principles Crash Course® is the top choice for the last-minute studier or any Computer Science Principles student who wants a quick refresher on the course.

Are you crunched for time? Have you started studying for your Advanced Placement® Computer Science Principles exam yet? How will you memorize everything you need to know before the test? Do you wish there was a fast and easy way to study for the exam AND boost your score?

If... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Consequences Of Racism
What does it mean to be judged before you walk through the door? What are the consequences? This week, TED speakers delve into the ways racism impacts our lives, from education, to health, to safety. Guests include poet and writer Clint Smith, writer and activist Miriam Zoila Pérez, educator Dena Simmons, and former prosecutor Adam Foss.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#466 Wildfire
This week we're talking about fire: in particular, wildfires. How they spread and how we manage them, but also the deeper history of wildfires on our planet and how they've been shaping our world for a long, long time. We speak with Andrew Scott, Emeritus Professor of Geology at Royal Holloway, University of London, about his book "Burning Planet: The Story of Fire Through Time", learning about wildfire on our planet now and in deep history. And we catch up with Caroline Weinberg, interm executive director of the March for Science organization, about this year's march on April 14.