The assembly of semiconductor nanoparticles, quantum dots (QDs), into dense crystalline nanostructures holds great promise for future optoelectronic devices. However, knowledge of the sub-nanometer scale driving forces underlying the kinetic processes of nucleation, growth, and final densification during QD assembly remains poor. Emulsion-templated assembly has recently been shown to provide good control over the bulk condensation of QDs into highly ordered 3D supercrystals. Here, emulsion-templated assembly is combined with in situ small-angle X-ray scattering to obtain direct insight into the nanoscale interactions underlying the nucleation, growth, and densification of QD supercrystals. At the point of supercrystal nucleation, nanoparticles undergo a hard-sphere-like crystallization into a hexagonal-close-packed lattice, slowly transforming into a face-centered-cubic lattice. The ligands play a crucial role in balancing steric repulsion against attractive van der Waals forces to mediate the initial equilibrium assembly, but cause the QDs to be progressively destabilized upon densification. The rich detail of this kinetic study elucidates the assembly and thermodynamic properties that define QD supercrystal fabrication approaching single-crystal quality, paving the way toward their use in optoelectronic devices.
- nanoparticle assembly
- quantum dots