Watching self-assembly dynamics at the nanoscale using liquid phase TEM
Self-assembly of nanoscale building blocks is an efficient strategy to construct complexity in biology and engineering, which produces extremely rich phases, reconfigurability and associated functions.
Yet the quantitative prediction of their ensemble architectures and formation kinetics remains a challenge due to technical impediments.
Here we use a new nanoscopic imaging technique, liquid phase transmission electron microscopy, to directly image the self-assembly of colloidal nanoparticles in solution, one-by-one in real-time.
Depending on solvent conditions, a single type of anisotropic nanoparticles can lead to a wide variety of final structures not previously predicted: linear and cyclic “polymeric” chains, hierarchical
plastic crystals, and highly ordered solids.
In-situ monitoring of the dynamic pathways together with computation reveals interesting and novel phenomena in these systems due to inherent many-body coupling and discreteness at the nanoscale.
We expect our study to open new opportunities in understanding the conformation, phase behaviors and collective dynamics on the nanometer length scale that is not accessible using other means.
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Dr Qian Chen
Role: Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
Organisation: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Biography: Professor Qian Chen received her B.S. in Chemistry from Peking University, China (2007), and her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from UIUC with Prof. Steve Granick (2012). Her doctoral research focused on developing new “bottom-up” strategies for materials construction.
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