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3D structure of individual nanocrystals in solution by electron microscopy

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Science  17 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6245, pp. 290-295
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab1343

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Looking at teeny tiny platinum particles

Electron microscopy is a powerful technique for taking snapshots of particles or images at near-atomic resolution. Park et al. studied free-floating platinum nanoparticles using electron microscopy and liquid cells (see the Perspective by Colliex). Using analytical techniques developed to study biological molecules, they reconstructed the threedimensional features of the Pt particles at near-atomic resolution. This approach has the scope to study a mixed population of particles one at a time and to study their synthesis as it occurs in solution.

Science, this issue p. 290; see also p. 232

Abstract

Knowledge about the synthesis, growth mechanisms, and physical properties of colloidal nanoparticles has been limited by technical impediments. We introduce a method for determining three-dimensional (3D) structures of individual nanoparticles in solution. We combine a graphene liquid cell, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, a direct electron detector, and an algorithm for single-particle 3D reconstruction originally developed for analysis of biological molecules. This method yielded two 3D structures of individual platinum nanocrystals at near-atomic resolution. Because our method derives the 3D structure from images of individual nanoparticles rotating freely in solution, it enables the analysis of heterogeneous populations of potentially unordered nanoparticles that are synthesized in solution, thereby providing a means to understand the structure and stability of defects at the nanoscale.

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