This Pyramid Scheme May Be Beneficial: Tetrahedron-Shaped Nanoparticles with Controlled Growth


This Pyramid Scheme May Be Beneficial: Tetrahedron-Shaped Nanoparticles with Controlled Growth

Rice chemists have discovered a technique for tetrahedron-shaped nanoparticles to grow in a regulated manner.

Nature has a strong preference for symmetry. Take a look at your own hands, for instance. However, nature occasionally creates asymmetrical objects, and the reasons for this aren’t always obvious.

Matthew Jones, a scientist at Rice University, and his colleagues have been looking for solutions to such issues concerning usable nanoparticles, and they now appear to have found one.

The metamorphosis of a developing gold nanoparticle into a tetrahedron was documented on video at Rice University using liquid cell transmission electron microscopy. Jones Research Group provided the video for this piece. Jones, postdoctoral researcher Muhua Sun, and graduate students Zhihua Cheng and Weiyin Chen have published a novel study that shows how symmetry breaking during particle formation routinely creates pyramid-shaped gold tetrahedron nanocrystals.

Small changes in a developing system affect the system’s fate in symmetry breakdown. It refers to the development of crystals from nanoscale seeds that start with a symmetrical atomic lattice in this case.

The Rice researchers demonstrated how, during the crystallization process, balancing thermodynamic and kinetic forces may be employed to tilt particle development in the desired direction. Their discovery also paves the way for the use of asymmetrical nanoparticles as metamaterial building blocks.

Jones received a Packard Fellowship in 2018 to assist him pursue research in liquid cell transmission electron microscopy, and the study was published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano (TEM).

Jones and his team devised a technology that allows researchers to observe single metal nanoparticles forming in liquid through a window large enough for electrons to pass through. Transmission electron microscopes, in general, operate in a high vacuum and simply evaporate exposed liquids.

Tetrahedron-shaped nanoparticles are frequently found as leftovers of other operations, according to the researchers, but producing them intentionally in the lab has proven difficult.

“When a particle is a single crystal, it usually inherits the lattice’s symmetry,” Jones explained. “And crystals, like cubes, rhombic dodecahedrons, and octahedrons, are very symmetric.” However, some people see strange outliers that unexpectedly have a lesser symmetry than the parent lattice.” The latest study is the first from Jones’ lab to demonstrate the effectiveness of the liquid cell approach. They were able to pinpoint the moment where growth goes awry and redirects the symmetry of the final nanoparticle product by flowing fluid containing ligands and precursors through the cell as they watched.

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