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Nano Lett. 2014 Jan 8;14(1):373-8. doi: 10.1021/nl4043328. Epub 2013 Dec 12.

Direct observation of aggregative nanoparticle growth: kinetic modeling of the size distribution and growth rate.

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Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of California , Davis, Davis, California 95616, United States.


Direct observations of solution-phase nanoparticle growth using in situ liquid transmission electron microscopy (TEM) have demonstrated the importance of "non-classical" growth mechanisms, such as aggregation and coalescence, on the growth and final morphology of nanocrystals at the atomic and single nanoparticle scales. To date, groups have quantitatively interpreted the mean growth rate of nanoparticles in terms of the Lifshitz-Slyozov-Wagner (LSW) model for Ostwald ripening, but less attention has been paid to modeling the corresponding particle size distribution. Here we use in situ fluid stage scanning TEM to demonstrate that silver nanoparticles grow by a length-scale dependent mechanism, where individual nanoparticles grow by monomer attachment but ensemble-scale growth is dominated by aggregation. Although our observed mean nanoparticle growth rate is consistent with the LSW model, we show that the corresponding particle size distribution is broader and more symmetric than predicted by LSW. Following direct observations of aggregation, we interpret the ensemble-scale growth using Smoluchowski kinetics and demonstrate that the Smoluchowski model quantitatively captures the mean growth rate and particle size distribution.

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