Nanoscale atomic clusters in atom probe tomographic data are not universally defined but instead are characterized by the clustering algorithm used and the parameter values controlling the algorithmic process. A new core-linkage clustering algorithm is developed, combining fundamental elements of the conventional maximum separation method with density-based analyses. A key improvement to the algorithm is the independence of algorithmic parameters inherently unified in previous techniques, enabling a more accurate analysis to be applied across a wider range of material systems. Further, an objective procedure for the selection of parameters based on approximating the data with a model of complete spatial randomness is developed and applied. The use of higher nearest neighbor distributions is highlighted to give insight into the nature of the clustering phenomena present in a system and to generalize the clustering algorithms used to analyze it. Maximum separation, density-based scanning, and the core linkage algorithm, developed within this study, were separately applied to the investigation of fine solute clustering of solute atoms in an Al-1.9Zn-1.7Mg (at.%) at two distinct states of early phase decomposition and the results of these analyses were evaluated.
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