Machine Learning to Reveal Nanoparticle Dynamics from Liquid-Phase TEM Videos

Lehan Yao, Zihao Ou, Binbin Luo, Cong Xu, Qian Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Liquid-phase transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has been recently applied to materials chemistry to gain fundamental understanding of various reaction and phase transition dynamics at nanometer resolution. However, quantitative extraction of physical and chemical parameters from the liquid-phase TEM videos remains bottlenecked by the lack of automated analysis methods compatible with the videos' high noisiness and spatial heterogeneity. Here, we integrate, for the first time, liquid-phase TEM imaging with our customized analysis framework based on a machine learning model called U-Net neural network. This combination is made possible by our workflow to generate simulated TEM images as the training data with well-defined ground truth. We apply this framework to three typical systems of colloidal nanoparticles, concerning their diffusion and interaction, reaction kinetics, and assembly dynamics, all resolved in real-time and real-space by liquid-phase TEM. A diversity of properties for differently shaped anisotropic nanoparticles are mapped, including the anisotropic interaction landscape of nanoprisms, curvature-dependent and staged etching profiles of nanorods, and an unexpected kinetic law of first-order chaining assembly of concave nanocubes. These systems representing properties at the nanoscale are otherwise experimentally inaccessible. Compared to the prevalent image segmentation methods, U-Net shows a superior capability to predict the position and shape boundary of nanoparticles from highly noisy and fluctuating background - a challenge common and sometimes inevitable in liquid-phase TEM videos. We expect our framework to push the potency of liquid-phase TEM to its full quantitative level and to shed insights, in high-throughput and statistically significant fashion, on the nanoscale dynamics of synthetic and biological nanomaterials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1421-1430
Number of pages10
JournalACS Central Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 26 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering


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