Multilayer Diffraction Reveals That Colloidal Superlattices Approach the Structural Perfection of Single Crystals


Colloidal superlattices are fascinating materials made of ordered nanocrystals, yet they are rarely called “atomically precise.” That is unsurprising, given how challenging it is to quantify the degree of structural order in these materials. However, once that order crosses a certain threshold, constructive interference of X-rays diffracted by the nanocrystals dominates the diffraction pattern, offering a wealth of structural information. By treating nanocrystals as scattering sources forming a self-probing interferometer, we developed a multilayer diffraction method that enabled the accurate determination of nanocrystal size, interparticle spacing, and their fluctuations for samples of self-assembled CsPbBr3 and PbS nanomaterials. The average nanocrystal displacement of 0.32-1.4 Å in the studied superlattices provides a figure of merit for their structural perfection and approaches the atomic displacement parameters found in traditional crystals. The method requires a laboratory-grade diffractometer and an open-source fitting algorithm for data analysis, providing a competitive alternative to resource-intensive synchrotron experiments.

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Supplementary material

Superlattice Multilayer Diffraction Supporting Information
Superlattice Multilayer Diffraction Data PythonCodes