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Understanding the Role of Solvation Forces on the Preferential Attachment of Nanoparticles in Liquid

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posted on 26.01.2016, 00:00 by David A. Welch, Taylor J. Woehl, Chiwoo Park, Roland Faller, James E. Evans, Nigel D. Browning
Optimization of colloidal nanoparticle synthesis techniques requires an understanding of underlying particle growth mechanisms. Nonclassical growth mechanisms are particularly important as they affect nanoparticle size and shape distributions, which in turn influence functional properties. For example, preferential attachment of nanoparticles is known to lead to the formation of mesocrystals, although the formation mechanism is currently not well-understood. Here we employ in situ liquid cell scanning transmission electron microscopy and steered molecular dynamics (SMD) simulations to demonstrate that the experimentally observed preference for end-to-end attachment of silver nanorods is a result of weaker solvation forces occurring at rod ends. SMD reveals that when the side of a nanorod approaches another rod, perturbation in the surface-bound water at the nanorod surface creates significant energy barriers to attachment. Additionally, rod morphology (i.e., facet shape) effects can explain the majority of the side attachment effects that are observed experimentally.