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In Situ Constructing the Kinetic Roadmap of Octahedral Nanocrystal Assembly Toward Controlled Superlattice Fabrication

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posted on 09.03.2021, 16:37 by Xin Huang, Jinlong Zhu, Binghui Ge, Frauke Gerdes, Christian Klinke, Zhongwu Wang
Crystallization and growth of anisotropic nanocrystals (NCs) into distinct superlattices were studied in real time, yielding kinetic details and designer parameters for scale-up fabrication of functional materials. Using octahedral PbS NC blocks, we discovered that NC assembly involves a primary lamellar ordering of NC-detached Pb­(OA)2 molecules on the front-spreading solvent surfaces. Upon a spontaneous increase of NC concentration during solvent processing, PbS NCs preferentially self-assembled into an orientation-disordered face-centered cubic (fcc) superlattice, which subsequently transformed into a body-centered cubic (bcc) superlattice with single NC-orientational ordering across individual domains. Unlike the deformation-based transformation route claimed previously, this solid–solid phase transformation involved a hidden intermediate formation of a lamellar-confined liquid interface at cost of the disassembly (melting) of small fcc grains. Such highly condensed and liquidized NCs recrystallized into the stable bcc phase with an energy reduction of 1.16 kBT. This energy-favorable and high NC-fraction-driven bcc phase grew as a 2D film at a propagation rate of 0.74 μm/min, smaller than the 1.23 μm/min observed in the early nucleated fcc phase under a dilute NC environment. Taking such insights and defined parameters, we designed experiments to manipulate the NC assembly pathway and achieved scalable fabrication of a large/single bcc supercrystal with coherent ordering of NC translation and atomic plane orientation. This study not only provides a design avenue for controllable fabrication of a large supercrystal with desired superlattices for application but also sheds new light on the nature of crystal nucleation/growth and phase transformation by extending the lengths from the nanoscale into the atomic scale, molecular scale, and microscale levels.