Crystallization of binary nanocrystal superlattices and the relevance of short-range attraction

Emanuele Marino, Allen LaCour, Timothy C. Moore, Sjoerd W. van Dongen, Austin W. Keller, Di An, Shengsong Yang, Daniel J. Rosen, Guillaume Gouget, Esther H.R. Tsai, Cherie R. Kagan, Thomas E. Kodger, Sharon C. Glotzer*, Christopher B. Murray*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The synthesis of binary nanocrystal superlattices (BNSLs) enables the targeted integration of orthogonal physical properties, such as photoluminescence and magnetism, into a single superstructure, unlocking a vast design space for multifunctional materials. However, the formation mechanism of BNSLs remains poorly understood, restricting the prediction of the structure and properties of superlattices. Here we use a combination of in situ scattering and molecular simulation to elucidate the self-assembly of two common BNSLs (AlB2 and NaZn13) through emulsion templating. Our self-assembly experiments reveal that no intermediate structures precede the formation of the final binary phases, indicating that their formation proceeds through classical nucleation. Using simulations, we find that, despite the formation of AlB2 and NaZn13 typically being attributed to entropy, their self-assembly is most consistent with the nanocrystals possessing short-range interparticle attraction, which we find can accelerate nucleation kinetics in BNSLs. We also find homogeneous, classical nucleation in simulations, corroborating our experiments. These results establish a robust correspondence between experiment and theory, paving the way towards prediction of BNSLs. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-122
JournalNature Synthesis
Issue number1
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2023


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