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The first 3D atomic-scale nanoparticle images

An international team of researchers led by the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has developed a technique that provides the first atomic-scale images of colloidal nanoparticles.

Alivisatos 3D Cover
The first atomic-scale images of colloidal nanoparticles. SINGLE uses in situ TEM imaging of platinum nanocrystals freely rotating in a graphene liquid cell to determine the 3D structures of individual colloidal nanoparticles. Image courtesy Berkeley Lab. Click for larger image.

Nanoparticle research is critical to energy applications, medicine, and manufacturing next-generation materials. But because colloidal particles in a solution are constantly in motion and do not settle, the usual imaging techniques won’t work for detecting defects at the nanoscale.

Scientists have overcome this hurdle by combining three advances in transmission electron microscopy (TEM): a single-atom thick graphene liquid cell for encapsulating the solution, direct electron detectors to view nanocrystals millisecond by millisecond, and 3D reconstruction theory.

This technique, called Structure Identification of Nanoparticles by Graphene Liquid cell Electron microscopy (SINGLE), has yielded the world’s first 3D structures of individual platinum nanocrystals at near-atomic resolution.

Berkeley Lab director Paul Alivisatos led the research, recently published in Science, in collaboration with Jungwon Park of Harvard University, Hans Elmlund of Australia’s Monash University, and Peter Ercius of Berkeley Lab. Other co-authors are Jong Min Yuk, David Limmer, Qian Chen, Kwanpyo Kim, Sang Hoon Han, David Weitz, and Alex Zettl.

Read more about the breakthrough here.

--Greg Moore

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