There's no place like real-space: elucidating size-dependent atomic structure of nanomaterials using pair distribution function analysis
The development of new functional materials builds on an understanding of the intricate relationship between material structure and properties, and structural characterization is a crucial part of materials chemistry. However, elucidating the atomic structure of nanomaterials remains a challenge using conventional diffraction techniques due to the lack of long-range atomic order. Over the past decade, Pair Distribution Function (PDF) analysis of X-ray or neutron total scattering data has become a mature and well-established method capable of giving insight into the atomic structure in nanomaterials. Here, we review the use of PDF analysis and modelling in characterization of a range of different nanomaterials that exhibit unique atomic structure compared to the corresponding bulk materials. A brief introduction to PDF analysis and modelling is given, followed by examples of how essential structural information can be extracted from PDFs using both model-free and advanced modelling methods. We put an emphasis on how the intuitive nature of the PDF can be used for understanding important structural motifs, and on the diversity of applications of PDF analysis to nanostructure problems.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Recent Review Articles