In situ high-resolution electron microscopy was used to reveal information at the atomic level for the disordered-to-ordered phase transformation of equiatomic FePt nanoparticles that can exhibit outstanding magnetic properties after transforming from disordered face-centered-cubic into the tetragonal L10 ordered structure. High-angle annular dark-field imaging in the scanning transmission electron microscope provided sufficient contrast between the Fe and Pt atoms to readily monitor the ordering of the atoms during in situ heating experiments. However, during continuous high-magnification imaging the electron beam influenced the kinetics of the transformation so annealing had to be performed with the electron beam blanked. At 500 °C where the reaction rate was relatively slow, observation of the transformation mechanisms using this sequential imaging protocol revealed that ordering proceeded from (002) surface facets but was incomplete and multiple-domain particles were formed that contained anti-phase domain boundaries and anti-site defects. At 600 and 700 °C, the limitations of sequential imaging were revealed as a consequence of increased transformation kinetics. Annealing for only 5 min at 700 °C produced complete single-domain L10 order; such single-domain particles were more spherical in shape with (002) facets. The in situ experiments also provided information concerning nanoparticle sintering, coalescence, and consolidation. Although there was resistance to complete sintering due to the crystallography of L10 order, the driving force from the large surface-area-to-volume ratio resulted in considerable nanoparticle coalescence, which would render such FePt nanoparticles unsuitable for use as magnetic recording media. Comparison of the in situ data acquired using the protocol described above with parallel ex situ annealing experiments showed that identical behavior resulted in all cases.
HAADF imaging mode was used to investigate structural evolution of FePt nanoparticles at temperature up to 700 °C. Expliting magnetic properties and structure of L10-ordered single-domain FePt is importand for technological purposes.