Nature Materials, Vol.16, No.1, 121-126, 2017
Nanoscale structural oscillations in perovskite oxides induced by oxygen evolution
Understanding the interaction between water and oxides is critical for many technological applications, including energy storage, surface wetting/self-cleaning, photocatalysis and sensors. Here, we report observations of strong structural oscillations of Ba0.5Sr0.5Co0.8Fe0.2O3-delta (BSCF) in the presence of both H2O vapour and electron irradiation using environmental transmission electron microscopy. These oscillations are related to the formation and collapse of gaseous bubbles. Electron energy-loss spectroscopy provides direct evidence of O-2 formation in these bubbles due to the incorporation of H2O into BSCF. SrCoO3-delta was found to exhibit small oscillations, while none were observed for La0.5Sr0.5CoO3-delta and LaCoO3. The structural oscillations of BSCF can be attributed to the fact that its oxygen 2p-band centre is close to the Fermi level, which leads to a low energy penalty for oxygen vacancy formation, high ion mobility, and high water uptake. This work provides surprising insights into the interaction between water and oxides under electron-beam irradiation.