Atomic-scale phase separation induced clustering of solute atoms

Lianfeng Zou, Penghui Cao, Yinkai Lei, Dmitri Zakharov, Xianhu Sun, Stephen D. House, Langli Luo, Jonathan Li, Yang Yang, Qiyue Yin, Xiaobo Chen, Chaoran Li, Hailang Qin, Eric A. Stach, Judith C. Yang, Guofeng Wang, Guangwen Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Dealloying typically occurs via the chemical dissolution of an alloy component through a corrosion process. In contrast, here we report an atomic-scale nonchemical dealloying process that results in the clustering of solute atoms. We show that the disparity in the adatom–substrate exchange barriers separate Cu adatoms from a Cu–Au mixture, leaving behind a fluid phase enriched with Au adatoms that subsequently aggregate into supported clusters. Using dynamic, atomic-scale electron microscopy observations and theoretical modeling, we delineate the atomic-scale mechanisms associated with the nucleation, rotation and amorphization–crystallization oscillations of the Au clusters. We expect broader applicability of the results because the phase separation process is dictated by the inherent asymmetric adatom-substrate exchange barriers for separating dissimilar atoms in multicomponent materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3934
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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