Using In Situ TEM for Energy Materials Research

Around the world, the demand for energy is constantly growing. Sadly, efforts to find short-term energy solutions have created extensive environmental damage, such as dwindling oil reserves and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Researchers are working to discover new energy materials that are sustainable, less expensive, and more efficient in order to combat the repercussions of current energy generation techniques. Furthermore, efforts to make currently installed energy solutions more environmentally friendly, for example improving catalytic converter technology, has become crucial for global air quality.

The energy materials research that looks the most promising is being carried out using in situ techniques. In situ researchers are working to harness electricity through material interaction, optimizing lithium-ion battery charging processes, and testing energy-harnessing and energy-converting materials. Researchers have to rely on in situ TEM holders in order to study these energy materials successfully.

In situ TEM holders enable in-depth energy materials research in the following ways:

Heating & Electrical Cell TEM Holder

Use a heating & electrical cell holder to examine the structural changes and real-time reactions throughout thermal and electrical processes inside an electron microscope. To carry out energy materials research, holders such as the Protochips Fusion system, allow researchers to test the performance and look at structural changes in solid-state energy converters. TEM holders which are compatible with conducting EDS elemental analysis also assist with the successful characterization of energy materials under electric and heated conditions.

Applying voltage, current, and heat to energy materials permits the researcher to establish the efficiency of the device. In terms of solid-state batteries, researchers can utilize the information they collect about how effectively a battery can hold charge during in situ research to conceptualize ways to enhance device performance.

Gas Cell TEM Holder

For the study of semiconductors and catalysts under real-world conditions, Gas cell TEM holders such as the Protochips Atmosphere system are useful. Particularly, examination of electrocatalysis has significantly advanced with the utilization of these in situ holders. As electrocatalysts harness solar energy and mimic photosynthesis to generate electric potential, the use of TEM holders has great promise in the field of clean energy generation.

Researchers utilized a gas cell TEM holder to heat hydrated cobalt to 300-degree units under nitrogen, In one of the electrocatalytic studies. They could clearly observe and characterize the oxidation of the cobalt, as hydrated cobalt layers formed the same as they would in their real-time application. In order to examine electrocatalysts properly, researchers can use a gas cell TEM holder’s stable heating membrane and pressure application abilities.

Liquid Cell TEM Holder

Most batteries contain liquid electrolyte, but the common characterization of these materials is still under ultra-high vacuum. When charging a lithium-ion battery for example, liquid electrolyte reacts with a lithium metal rod to create electric potential. Lithium reenters the liquid electrolyte when power is drawn out of the lithium-ion battery, which dissolves until there is no more potential to be taken. Researchers need the safe liquid encapsulation of a liquid cell TEM holder to observe the whole process in real-time.

Researchers can come up with solutions to enhance battery charging efficiency and performance by studying energy materials in liquid environments. In fact, researchers utilized the Poseidon Select in situ liquid TEM holder to observe the stripping of lithium in a nanoscale battery during charging and discharge. Their research determined sources of inefficiency in batteries which permits researchers to make informed decisions about how to develop safer and more efficient lithium-ion batteries.


Improving performance and efficiency of energy materials is critical to the future of society and the environment. With in situ TEM holders, researchers can observe the processes that can create new, clean ways to generate energy. The future will need more sustainable energy solutions – in order to preserve the ozone layer, as well as prepare for the degradation of the crude oil supply, researchers are using in situ TEM holders to research and discover sustainable efficient alternatives.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Protochips.

For more information on this source, please visit Protochips.


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