Unravelling crystal growth of nanoparticles

Binbin Luo, Ziwei Wang, Tine Curk, Garrett Watson, Chang Liu, Ahyoung Kim, Zihao Ou, Erik Luijten, Qian Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Crystal growth from nanoscale constituents is a ubiquitous phenomenon in biology, geology and materials science. Numerous studies have focused on understanding the onset of nucleation and on producing high-quality crystals by empirically sampling constituents with different attributes and varying the growth conditions. However, the kinetics of post-nucleation growth processes, an important determinant of crystal morphology and properties, have remained underexplored due to experimental challenges associated with real-space imaging at the nanoscale. Here we report the imaging of the crystal growth of nanoparticles of different shapes using liquid-phase transmission electron microscopy, resolving both lateral and perpendicular growth of crystal layers by tracking individual nanoparticles. We observe that these nanoscale systems exhibit layer-by-layer growth, typical of atomic crystallization, as well as rough growth prevalent in colloidal systems. Surprisingly, the lateral and perpendicular growth modes can be independently controlled, resulting in two mixed crystallization modes that, until now, have received only scant attention. Combining analytical considerations with molecular dynamics and kinetic Monte Carlo simulations, we develop a comprehensive framework for our observations, which are fundamentally determined by the size and shape of the building blocks. These insights unify the understanding of crystal growth across four orders of magnitude in particle size and suggest novel pathways to crystal engineering.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)589-595
Number of pages7
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number6
Early online dateMar 30 2023
StatePublished - Jun 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Bioengineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • General Materials Science
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering


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