The formation of helical nanowires -- nanosprings -- of boron carbide have been observed and a growth mechanism, based on the work of adhesion of the metal catalyst and the tip of the nanowire, developed. The model demonstrates that the asymmetry necessary for helical growth is introduced when the following conditions are met:
(1) The radius of the droplet is larger than the radius of the nanowire, and (2) The center of mass of the metal droplet is displaced laterally from the central axis of the nanowire. Furthermore, this model indicates that only amorphous nanowires will exhibit this unique form of growth and that in monocrystalline nanowires it is the crystal structure that inhibits helical growth. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy and electron diffraction has been used to compare the structure of both amorphous and crystalline nanowires.
Oxide single crystals, such as yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) and yttrium orthovanadate (YVO4), are important host crystals for solid-state laser applications. These crystals are often grown by the Czochralski process and are doped with neodymium during growth. The microstructure of the resultant crystal affects the overall laser performance and it is necessary to be able to characterize grown-in defects in the material. Scanning electron microscopy has been used to examine the fracture surfaces of YAG and has shown the presence of microscopic voids, which act as stress concentrators and in some cases appear to be the cause of fracture. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has been used to characterize various defects in both YAG and YVO4 crystals. The defects found depend on the growth conditions, specifically the Nd concentration in the crystal and the position within the boule. One of the most common defects identified in both materials were microscopic spherical particles. In YAG these particles appeared to be located primarily in the core regions and analysis of high resolution images indicate that they are due to regions that are both compositionally and orientationally different from the matrix phase. Direct observation of dislocations in YVO4 was made using TEM. In YAG only indirect evidence for dislocations could be found from the observation of river marks on fracture surfaces.