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Growth spurts
Date:8/7/2009

our best machine for imaging dynamic events, and at 300kV the electron beam has enough penetrating power to maintain high resolution, even when looking through a liquid confined between two thin solid windows," says NCEM director Dahmen. "Our resolution is significantly higher than any previous studies of this nature, which made it possible for us to measure the movement and growth of individual colloidal particles only a few nanometers in size."

Zheng, Dahmen, Alivisatos and their colleagues used the JEOL 3010 and liquid cells microfabricated from a pair of 100-micron-thick silicon wafers with 20 nanometer thick silicon nitride membrane windows to image the growth trajectories of platinum nanocrystals in solution. Platinum nanocrystals are an ideal system for such studies because their high electron contrast allows liquid-cell TEM imaging of individual particles. The JEOL 3010's electron beam was used to both trigger nucleation and drive crystal growth through reduction of the platinum cations.

"Video-rate acquisition allowed us to track nanocrystal growth trajectories from frame-to-frame," says Zheng. "This allowed us to observe that each nanocrystal can either grow steadily through the addition of monomers from solution or by merging with another nanocrystal in random coalescence events."

Zheng says it has been assumed that coalescence events would result in some crystals being much larger than others, a bad thing in that the physical properties of nanocrystals are so dependent upon size and shape that for many applications it is critical that monodispersed nanocrystals be produced during synthesis. Consequently, strategies such as the use of surfactants to coat nanocrystal surfaces have been adopted to avoid coalescence events.

"Our observations provide invaluable direct information on how nanocrystals grow and indicate how we might directly control nanocrystal synthesis for tailored properties," says Zheng. "Also, our in
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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