American Chemical Society

Physical Regimes and Mechanisms of Picosecond Laser Fragmentation of Gold Nanoparticles in Water from X‑ray Probing and Atomistic Simulations

Posted on 2024-04-03 - 12:43
Laser fragmentation in liquids has emerged as a promising green chemistry technique for changing the size, shape, structure, and phase composition of colloidal nanoparticles, thus tuning their properties to the needs of practical applications. The advancement of this technique requires a solid understanding of the mechanisms of laser–nanoparticle interactions that lead to the fragmentation. While theoretical studies have made impressive practical and mechanistic predictions, their experimental validation is required. Hence, using the picosecond laser fragmentation of Au nanoparticles in water as a model system, the transient melting and fragmentation processes are investigated with a combination of time-resolved X-ray probing and atomistic simulations. The direct comparison of the diffraction profiles predicted in the simulations and measured in experiments has revealed a sequence of several nonequilibrium processes triggered by the laser irradiation. At low laser fluences, in the regime of nanoparticle melting and resolidification, the results provide evidence of a transient superheating of crystalline nanoparticles above the melting temperature. At fluences about three times the melting threshold, the fragmentation starts with evaporation of Au atoms and their condensation into small satellite nanoparticles. As fluence increases above five times the melting threshold, a transition to a rapid (explosive) phase decomposition of superheated nanoparticles into small liquid droplets and vapor phase atoms is observed. The transition to the phase explosion fragmentation regime is signified by prominent changes in the small-angle X-ray scattering profiles measured in experiments and calculated in simulations. The good match between the experimental and computational diffraction profiles gives credence to the physical picture of the cascade of thermal fragmentation regimes revealed in the simulations and demonstrates the high promise of the joint tightly integrated computational and experimental efforts.


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