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Self-Assembly Mechanism of Complex Corrugated Particles

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-11-16, 18:06 authored by Lanqin Tang, Thi Vo, Xiaoxing Fan, Drew Vecchio, Tao Ma, Jun Lu, Harrison Hou, Sharon C. Glotzer, Nicholas A. Kotov
A variety of inorganic nanoscale materials produce microscale particles with highly corrugated geometries, but the mechanism of their formation remains unknown. Here we found that uniformly sized CdS-based hedgehog particles (HPs) self-assemble from polydisperse nanoparticles (NPs) with diameters of 1.0–4.0 nm. The typical diameters of HPs and spikes are 1770 ± 180 and 28 ± 3 nm, respectively. Depending on the temperature, solvent, and reaction times, the NPs self-assemble into nanorods, nanorod aggregates, low-corrugation particles, and other HP-related particles with complexity indexes ranging from 0 to 23.7. We show that “hedgehog”, other geometries, and topologies of highly corrugated particles originate from the thermodynamic preference of polydisperse NPs to attach to the growing nanoscale cluster when electrostatic repulsion competes with van der Waals attraction. Theoretical models and simulations of the self-assembly accounting for the competition of attractive and repulsive interactions in electrolytes accurately describe particle morphology, growth stages, and the spectrum of observed products. When kinetic parameters are included in the models, the formation of corrugated particles with surfaces decorated by nanosheets, known as flower-like particles, were theoretically predicted and experimentally observed. The generality of the proposed mechanism was demonstrated for the formation of mixed HPs via a combination of CdS and Co3O4 NPs. With unusually high dispersion stability of HPs in unfavorable solvents including liquid CO2, mechanistic insights into HP formation are essential for their structural adaptation for applications from energy storage, catalysis, water treatment, and others.