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Keywords:

  • rotation electron diffraction;
  • structure determination;
  • quasicrystal approximants

Electron diffraction is a complementary technique to single-crystal X-ray diffraction and powder X-ray diffraction for structure solution of unknown crystals. Crystals too small to be studied by single-crystal X-ray diffraction or too complex to be solved by powder X-ray diffraction can be studied by electron diffraction. The main drawbacks of electron diffraction have been the difficulties in collecting complete three-dimensional electron diffraction data by conventional electron diffraction methods and the very time-consuming data collection. In addition, the intensities of electron diffraction suffer from dynamical scattering. Recently, a new electron diffraction method, rotation electron diffraction (RED), was developed, which can overcome the drawbacks and reduce dynamical effects. A complete three-dimensional electron diffraction data set can be collected from a sub-micrometre-sized single crystal in less than 2 h. Here the RED method is applied for ab initio structure determination of an unknown complex intermetallic phase, the pseudo-decagonal (PD) quasicrystal approximant Al37.0(Co,Ni)15.5, denoted as PD2. RED shows that the crystal is F-centered, with a = 46.4, b = 64.6, c = 8.2 Å. However, as with other approximants in the PD series, the reflections with odd l indices are much weaker than those with l even, so it was decided to first solve the PD2 structure in the smaller, primitive unit cell. The basic structure of PD2 with unit-cell parameters a = 23.2, b = 32.3, c = 4.1 Å and space group Pnmm has been solved in the present study. The structure with c = 8.2 Å will be taken up in the near future. The basic structure contains 55 unique atoms (17 Co/Ni and 38 Al) and is one of the most complex structures solved by electron diffraction. PD2 is built of characteristic 2 nm wheel clusters with fivefold rotational symmetry, which agrees with results from high-resolution electron microscopy images. Simulated electron diffraction patterns for the structure model are in good agreement with the experimental electron diffraction patterns obtained by RED.