Real-Time Observation of Reconstruction Dynamics on TiO<sub>2</sub>(001) Surface under Oxygen via an Environmental Transmission Electron Microscope

The surface atomic structure has a remarkable impact on the physical and chemical properties of metal oxides and has been studied extensively by scanning tunneling microscopy. However, acquiring real-time information on the formation and evolution of the surface structure remains a great challenge. Here we use environmental transmission electron microscopy to directly observe the stress-induced reconstruction dynamics on the (001) surface of anatase TiO<sub>2</sub>. Our in situ results unravel for the first time how the (1 × 4) reconstruction forms and how the metastable (1 × 3) and (1 × 5) patterns transform into the (1 × 4) surface stable structure. With the support of first-principles calculations, we find that the surface evolution is driven by both low coordinated atoms and surface stress. This work provides a complete picture of the structural evolution of TiO<sub>2</sub>(001) under oxygen atmosphere and paves the way for future studies of the reconstruction dynamics of other solid surfaces.