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Mapping nanoparticles atom by atom


Precise maps of the atoms in nanoparticles reveal that even nanoparticles from the same batch differ significantly from each other.

Nanoparticles have found uses in applications as diverse as cosmetics, medicine, catalysis and batteries. Scientists desire to understand exactly how the properties of nanoparticles depend on their size and structure, but it has been difficult to image nanoparticles in solution at sufficiently high resolution.

Now, a team that included researchers from the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea has used an electron microscopy technique to construct three-dimensional images of the 600 or so atoms in individual platinum nanoparticles in solution.

They found that even nanoparticles made in the same batch have substantially different structures. Such structural differences could cause significant variations in properties and so need to be factored in when making and analysing nanoparticles.

Science 368, 60–67 (2020). doi: 10.1126/science.aax3233

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