Studying particle-agglomerate systems compared to two-particle systems elucidates different stages of sintering by monitoring both pores and particles. We report on in situ sintering of 3% yttria-stablized zirconia particle agglomerates in the transmission electron microscope (TEM). Real-time TEM observations indicate neck formation and growth, particle coalescence and pore closure. A MATLAB-based image processing tool was developed to calculate the projected area of the agglomerate with and without internal pores during in situ sintering. We demonstrate the first densification curves generated from sequentially acquired TEM images. The in situ sintering onset temperature was then determined to be at 960 °C. Densification curves illustrated that the agglomerate projected area which excludes the internal observed pores also shrinks during in situ sintering. To overcome the common projection problem for TEM analyses, agglomerate mass-thickness maps were obtained from low energy-loss analysis combined with STEM imaging. The decrease in the projected area was directly related to the increase in mass-thickness of the agglomerate, likely caused by hidden pores existing in the direction of the beam. Access to shrinkage curves through in situ TEM analysis provides a new avenue to investigate fundamental mechanisms of sintering through directly correlating microstructural changes during consolidation with mesoscale densification behavior.
Authors studied 3% yttria-stablized zirconia particle-agglomerate systems to elucidate different stages of sintering up to 1140 °C by monitoring both pores and particles inside the TEM. They demonstrate the first densification curves generated from sequentially acquired TEM images. A MATLAB-based image processing tool was developed to calculate the projected area of the agglomerate with and without internal pores during in situ sintering.