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Measurement technique probes surface structure of gold nanocrystals
Date:3/10/2008

diameter.

The electron beam is scattered by the atoms in the nanocrystal, resulting in a complicated diffraction pattern made of speckles similar to what is seen when a laser beam is reflected by a surface. When deciphered, the diffraction pattern describes the structural arrangement and behavior of the atoms, and the number and lengths of chemical bonds in the nanocrystal.

Chemical force depends upon the number of chemical bonds present, so atoms on the surface, which dont have as many neighbors as those inside a crystal, experience a different force, Zuo said. Our study also shows bond lengths on the surface of a gold nanocrystal are very different from bond lengths inside a bulk crystal.

The differences come as a result of the surface atoms being contracted. The force behind the contraction is attributed to the smoothing of surface electron density and a resulting electrostatic force that pulls the surface ions toward the remaining bonds.

What is surprising, Zuo said, is that the contraction depends on the crystal facets. Atoms on facets with fewer bonds dominate, and lead to a much smaller contraction on other facets. This behavior is markedly different from bulk crystalline surfaces, and represents a new pattern of structural dynamics for nanocrystalline materials.

Characterizing small nanostructures and their surfaces is so essential for understanding the special properties of nanomaterials, Zuo said. Nano-area coherent electron diffraction makes it possible for us to probe the surfaces of individual nanocrystals and examine their structure and size-dependent catalytic activity.


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Contact: James E. Kloeppel
kloeppel@uiuc.edu
217-244-1073
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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