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.
This is a weekly series of informal talks given primarily by members of the soft condensed matter and statistical mechanics groups, but is also open to members of other groups and external visitors. The aim of the series is to promote discussion and learning of various topics at a level suitable to the broad background of the group. Everyone is welcome to attend..