Fabrication of crystals from single metal atoms

Nicolas P. E. Barry, Anais Pitto-Barry, Ana M. Sanchez, Andrew P. Dove, Richard J. Procter, Joan J. Soldevila-Barreda, Nigel Kirby, Ian Hands-Portman, Corinne J. Smith, Rachel K. O'Reilly, Richard Beanland, Peter J. Sadler

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24 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Metal nanocrystals offer new concepts for the design of nanodevices with a range of potential applications. Currently the formation of metal nanocrystals cannot be controlled at the level of individual atoms. Here we describe a new general method for the fabrication of multi-heteroatom-doped graphitic matrices decorated with very small, ångström-sized, three-dimensional (3D)-metal crystals of defined size. We irradiate boron-rich precious-metal-encapsulated self-spreading polymer micelles with electrons and produce, in real time, a doped graphitic support on which individual osmium atoms hop and migrate to form 3D-nanocrystals, as small as 15 Å in diameter, within 1 h. Crystal growth can be observed, quantified and controlled in real time. We also synthesize the first examples of mixed ruthenium–osmium 3D-nanocrystals. This technology not only allows the production of ångström-sized homo- and hetero-crystals, but also provides new experimental insight into the dynamics of nanocrystals and pathways for their assembly from single atoms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3851
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2014

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