Imaging the atomic structure and local chemistry of platelets in natural type Ia diamond


In the past decades, many efforts have been devoted to characterizing {001} platelet defects in type Ia diamond. It is known that N is concentrated at the defect core. However, an accurate description of the atomic structure of the defect and the role that N plays in it is still unknown. Here, by using aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy and electron energy-loss spectroscopy we have determined the atomic arrangement within platelet defects in a natural type Ia diamond and matched it to a prevalent theoretical model. The platelet has an anisotropic atomic structure with a zigzag ordering of defect pairs along the defect line. The electron energy-loss near-edge fine structure of both carbon K- and nitrogen K-edges obtained from the platelet core is consistent with a trigonal bonding arrangement at interstitial sites. The experimental observations support an interstitial aggregate mode of formation for platelet defects in natural diamond.

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Fig. 1: Image characteristics of platelets in diamond.
Fig. 2: Theoretical atomic structural models proposed in the literature.
Fig. 3: High-resolution HAADF STEM images of two platelets viewed edge-on along <110> directions showing the asymmetric nature of the platelet structure.
Fig. 4: Qualitative comparison of experimental HAADF STEM images of platelet A and platelet B to multislice simulations of the platelets viewed along the [110]p and \([{\bf{1}}{\bar{{\bf{1}}}}{\bf{0}}]_{\mathbf{p}}\) directions using the selected platelet structure models.
Fig. 5: Higher-magnification HAADF STEM characterizations.
Fig. 6: EELS imaging and low kV imaging of platelet defects.


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E.J.O., J.H.N., R.E.K. and S.R.N. acknowledge the financial support of the NRF and DST in South Africa and the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials at the University of the Witwatersrand. A.I.K. acknowledges financial support from EPSRC and the Royal Society. We thank Diamond Light Source for access and support in use of the electron Physical Science Imaging Centre during part of this work.

Author information

E.J.O. performed the (S)TEM and EELS characterization, (S)TEM simulations and data processing. C.S.A., H.S. and E.J.O. performed the (S)TEM imaging at 80 kV. S.R.N. provided the specimen for analysis. R.E.K. assisted in the construction of structural models used for simulation. J.H.N., S.R.N., A.I.K. and P.A.v.A. assisted in the interpretation of the results. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript.

Correspondence to E. J. Olivier.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables: S1, Supplementary Figures: Figures S1–S14, Supplementary References 1–9


Supplementary Video 1

Simulated supercell of platelet defect with periodic N placement

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Olivier, E.J., Neethling, J.H., Kroon, R.E. et al. Imaging the atomic structure and local chemistry of platelets in natural type Ia diamond. Nature Mater 17, 243–248 (2018).

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