Nanocrystalline materials: recent advances in crystallographic characterization techniques
Most properties of nanocrystalline materials are shape-dependent, providing their exquisite tunability in optical, mechanical, electronic and catalytic properties. An example of the former is localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR), the coherent oscillation of conduction electrons in metals that can be excited by the electric field of light; this resonance frequency is highly dependent on both the size and shape of a nanocrystal. An example of the latter is the marked difference in catalytic activity observed for different Pd nanoparticles. Such examples highlight the importance of particle shape in nanocrystalline materials and their practical applications. However, one may ask ‘how are nanoshapes created?’, ‘how does the shape relate to the atomic packing and crystallography of the material?’, ‘how can we control and characterize the external shape and crystal structure of such small nanocrystals?’. This feature article aims to give the reader an overview of important techniques, concepts and recent advances related to these questions. Nucleation, growth and how seed crystallography influences the final synthesis product are discussed, followed by shape prediction models based on seed crystallography and thermodynamic or kinetic parameters. The crystallographic implications of epitaxy and orientation in multilayered, core-shell nanoparticles are overviewed, and, finally, the development and implications of novel, spatially resolved analysis tools are discussed.
nanocrystalline materials; plasmonics; shape prediction models