Atomic-Scale Evolution of a Growing Core–Shell Nanoparticle

Understanding the atomic-scale growth at solid/solution interfaces is an emerging frontier in molecular and materials chemistry. This is particularly challenging when studying chemistry occurring on the surfaces of nanoparticles in solution. Here, we provide atomic-scale resolution of growth, in a statistical approach, at the surfaces of inorganic nanoparticles by state-of-the-art aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and focal series reconstruction. Using well-known CdSe nanoparticles, we unfold new information that, for the first time, allows following growth directly, and the subsequent formation of CdS shells. We correlate synthetic procedures with resulting atomic structure by revealing the distribution of lattice disorder (such as stacking faults) within the CdSe core particles. With additional sequential synthetic steps, an ongoing transformation of the entire structure occurs, such that annealing takes place and stacking faults are eliminated from the core. The general strategy introduced here can now be used to provide equally revealing atomic-scale information concerning the structural evolution of inorganic nanostructures.