Research Article

Interface and heterostructure design in polyelemental nanoparticles

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Science  01 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6430, pp. 959-964
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav4302

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Phases of multielement nanoparticles

Thermodynamically stable metal nanoparticles composed of multiple elements could, in principle, exhibit several different phases that form multiple interfaces. Chen et al. explored the structure and composition of palladium-tin alloy nanoparticles formed with up to five other elements after high-temperature annealing. Triphase nanoparticles possessed two or three interface architectures, and tetraphase nanoparticles exhibited up to six interfaces. Theoretical and experimental studies revealed how the balance between surface and interfacial energies influences the observed phases and interface structure.

Science, this issue p. 959


Nanomaterials that form as heterostructures have applications in catalysis, plasmonics, and electronics. Multielement nanoparticles can now be synthesized through a variety of routes, but how thermodynamic phases form in such structures and how specific interfaces between them can be designed and synthesized are still poorly understood. We explored how palladium-tin alloys form mixed-composition phases with metals with known but complex miscibilities. Nanoparticles with up to seven elements were synthesized, and many form triphase heterostructures consisting of either three-interface or two-interface architectures. Density functional theory calculations and experimental work were used to determine the balance between the surface and interfacial energies of the observed phases. From these observations, design rules have been established for making polyelemental systems with specific heterostructures, including tetraphase nanoparticles with as many as six junctions.

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