Quantifying the Nucleation and Growth Kinetics of Electron Beam Nanochemistry with Liquid Cell Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy

19 July 2018, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


In this article, we report on complex nanochemistry and transport phenomena associated with nanocrystal formation by electron beam induced growth and liquid cell electron microscopy (LCEM). We synthesized silver nanocrystals using scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) electron beam induced synthesis and systematically varied the electron dose rate, a parameter solely thought to regulate nanocrystal formation kinetics via the rate of metal precursor reduction. Rationally modifying the solution chemistry with tertiary butanol to scavenge radical oxidizing species established a strongly reducing environment and enabled repeatable LCEM experiments. Interestingly, nanocrystal growth rate decreased with increasing electron dose rate despite the predicted increase in reductant concentration. We present evidence that this counterintuitive trend stems from increased oxidizing radical concentration and radical recombination at high magnifications, which together decrease rate of precursor reduction. Nucleation rate was proportional only to imaging magnification, which we rationalized based on local radical accumulation at high magnification causing increased supersaturation and fast nucleation. Radiation chemistry and reactant diffusion scaling models yielded new scaling laws that quantitatively explained the observed effects of electron dose rate on nucleation and growth kinetics. Finally, we introduce a new reaction kinetic model that enables unraveling nucleation and growth kinetics to probe nucleation kinetics occurring at sub-nanometer length scales, which are typically not accessible with LCEM. Our systematic investigation of nanocrystal formation kinetics with LCEM indicates that the intricacies of radiation chemistry and reactant transport must be accounted for to effectively harness radical scavengers and electron beam induced growth to systematically probe nanocrystal formation kinetics. We expect the empirical trends, scaling laws, and reaction kinetic model presented here will be indispensable tools for in situ electron microscopists and materials chemists alike when designing, analyzing, and interpreting LCEM nanocrystal formation data.


Liquid cell TEM
nanocrystal synthesis
kinetic model
in situ electron microscopy
nanocrystal growth
radiation chemistry

Supplementary materials

Supplementary Material ver7


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