Nanophase aluminum powder was characterized in a field-emission-gun transmission electron microscope (TEM). Different techniques were used to investigate the structure of the particles, including conventional bright-field and dark-field imaging, scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), high-resolution lattice imaging, diffraction studies, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) analysis and mapping, and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) analysis and mapping. It has been established that the particle cores consist of aluminum single crystals that sometimes contain crystal lattice defects. The core is covered by a passivating layer of aluminum oxide a few nanometers thick. The alumina is mostly amorphous, but evidences of partial crystallinity of the oxide were also found. The thickness of this layer was measured using different techniques, and the results are in good agreement with each other. The particles are agglomerated in two distinct ways. Some particles were apparently bonded together during processing before oxidation. These mostly form dumbbells covered by a joint oxide layer. Also, oxidized particles are loosely assembled into relatively large clusters.
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