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In situ microscopy of the self-assembly of branched nanocrystals in solution.

ABSTRACT: Solution-phase self-assembly of nanocrystals into mesoscale structures is a promising strategy for constructing functional materials from nanoscale components. Liquid environments are key to self-assembly since they allow suspended nanocrystals to diffuse and interact freely, but they also complicate experiments. Real-time observations with single-particle resolution could have transformative impact on our understanding of nanocrystal self-assembly. Here we use real-time in situ imaging by liquid-cell electron microscopy to elucidate the nucleation and growth mechanism and properties of linear chains of octapod-shaped nanocrystals in their native solution environment. Statistical mechanics modelling based on these observations and using the measured chain-length distribution clarifies the relative importance of dipolar and entropic forces in the assembly process and gives direct access to the interparticle interaction. Our results suggest that monomer-resolved in situ imaging combined with modelling can provide unprecedented quantitative insight into the microscopic processes and interactions that govern nanocrystal self-assembly in solution.


PROVIDER: S-EPMC4822026 | BioStudies | 2016-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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