For the first time, nascent soot particles are probed by using helium-ion microscopy (HIM). HIM is a technique that is similar to scanning electron microscopy (SEM) but it can achieve higher contrast and improved surface sensitivity, especially for carbonaceous materials. The HIM microscope yields images with a high contrast, which allows for the unambiguous recognition of smaller nascent soot particles than those observed in previous transmission electron microscopy studies. The results indicate that HIM is ideal for rapid and reliable probing of the morphology of nascent soot, with surface details visible down to approximately 5 nm, and particles as small as 2 nm are detectable. The results also show that nascent soot is structurally and chemically inhomogeneous, and even the smallest particles can have shapes that deviate from a perfect sphere.
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