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The use of PDF analysis to investigate local structure and domains

G. Paglia, E.S. Bozin and S.J.L. Billinge
Michigan State University, US

total scattering, PDF, gamma-alumina

Knowledge of the atomic-scale structure is an important prerequisite to understand and control the properties of materials. The main techniques used to determine atomic structure are x-ray, neutron and electron diffraction from which the Bragg peaks are used to determine the structure. These techniques can be difficult to apply to nanostructures that have limited structural coherence resulting in large diffuse components in their diffraction patterns.
However, the structure of nanomaterials can be elucidated through use of the atomic pair distribution function (PDF) analysis. The PDF is obtained by the sine Fourier transformation of the reciprocal space total scattering structure function, obtained from a diffraction experiment. It derives from both Bragg and diffuse scattering, yielding quantitative information about the local disorder within a material. All diffracted intensities are therefore equally considered, making it ideal for examining materials which have structural coherence at the nanometer length scales.
Examples of the PDF’s use in structural analysis are provided in this presentation. In particular, the role of PDF analysis in recently identifying a previously undetected fine-scale nanostructure in gamma-alumina, an immensely important material in industrial catalysis, will be shown.

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