Real-time imaging of metallic supraparticle assembly during nanoparticle synthesis†
Observations of nanoparticle superlattice formation over minutes during colloidal nanoparticle synthesis elude description by conventional understanding of self-assembly, which theorizes superlattices require extended formation times to allow for diffusively driven annealing of packing defects. It remains unclear how nanoparticle position annealing occurs on such short time scales despite the rapid superlattice growth kinetics. Here we utilize liquid phase transmission electron microscopy to directly image the self-assembly of platinum nanoparticles into close packed supraparticles over tens of seconds during nanoparticle synthesis. Electron-beam induced reduction of an aqueous platinum precursor formed monodisperse 2–3 nm platinum nanoparticles that simultaneously self-assembled over tens of seconds into 3D supraparticles, some of which showed crystalline ordered domains. Experimentally varying the interparticle interactions (e.g., electrostatic, steric interactions) by changing precursor chemistry revealed that supraparticle formation was driven by weak attractive van der Waals forces balanced by short ranged repulsive steric interactions. Growth kinetic measurements and an interparticle interaction model demonstrated that nanoparticle surface diffusion rates on the supraparticles were orders of magnitude faster than nanoparticle attachment, enabling nanoparticles to find high coordination binding sites unimpeded by incoming particles. These results reconcile rapid self-assembly of supraparticles with the conventional self-assembly paradigm in which nanocrystal position annealing by surface diffusion occurs on a significantly shorter time scale than nanocrystal attachment.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Nanoscale 2022 Emerging Investigators