Coexistence of hcp and bct Phases during In Situ Superlattice Assembly from Faceted Colloidal Nanocrystals

In this work performed at beamline ID02 of ESRF we study the in situ self-assembly of faceted PbS nanocrystals from colloidal suspensions upon controlled solvent evaporation using time-resolved small-angle X-ray scattering and X-ray cross-correlation analysis.

In our bulk-sensitive experiment in transmission geometry, the superlattice crystallization is observed in real time, revealing a hexagonal closed-packed (hcp) structure followed by formation of a body-centered cubic (bcc) superlattice. The bcc superlattice undergoes continuous tetragonal distortion in the solvated state shortly after its formation, resulting in the body-centered tetragonal (bct) structure. Upon solvent evaporation, the bct superstructure becomes more pronounced with the still coexisting hcp phase. These findings corroborate the existing simulations of assembling cuboctahedral-shaped particles and illustrate that we observed the predicted equilibrium states. This work is essential for a deeper understanding of the fundamental forces that direct nanocrystal assembly including nanocrystal shape and ligand coverage.

J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 10, 6331-6338 (2019)