We review our studies of the initial oxidation stages of Cu(001) thin films as investigated by in situ ultra-high vacuum transmission electron microscopy. We present our observations of surface reconstruction and the nucleation to coalescence of copper oxide during in situ oxidation in O2. We have proposed a semi-quantitative model, where oxygen surface diffusion is the dominant mechanism of the initial oxidation stages of Cu. We have also investigated the effect of water vapor on copper oxidation. We have observed that the presence of water vapor in the oxidizing atmosphere retards the rate of Cu oxidation and Cu2O is reduced when exposed directly to steam.
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