Kinetic pathways of crystallization at the nanoscale

Zihao Ou, Ziwei Wang, Binbin Luo, Erik Luijten, Qian Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Nucleation and growth are universally important in systems from the atomic to the micrometre scale as they dictate structural and functional attributes of crystals. However, at the nanoscale, the pathways towards crystallization have been largely unexplored owing to the challenge of resolving the motion of individual building blocks in a liquid medium. Here we address this gap by directly imaging the full transition of dispersed gold nanoprisms to a superlattice at the single-particle level. We utilize liquid-phase transmission electron microscopy at low dose rates to control nanoparticle interactions without affecting their motions. Combining particle tracking with Monte Carlo simulations, we reveal that positional ordering of the superlattice emerges from orientational disorder. This method allows us to measure parameters such as line tension and phase coordinates, charting the nonclassical nucleation pathway involving a dense, amorphous intermediate. We demonstrate the versatility of our approach via crystallization of different nanoparticles, pointing the way to more general applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-455
Number of pages6
JournalNature materials
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science


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