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Acc Chem Res. 2014 Dec 16;47(12):3530-40. doi: 10.1021/ar5002704. Epub 2014 Oct 24.

Architectural design of heterogeneous metallic nanocrystals--principles and processes.

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, National University of Singapore , 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260, Singapore.


Heterogeneous metal nanocrystals (HMNCs) are a natural extension of simple metal nanocrystals (NCs), but as a research topic, they have been much less explored until recently. HMNCs are formed by integrating metal NCs of different compositions into a common entity, similar to the way atoms are bonded to form molecules. HMNCs can be built to exhibit an unprecedented architectural diversity and complexity by programming the arrangement of the NC building blocks ("unit NCs"). The architectural engineering of HMNCs involves the design and fabrication of the architecture-determining elements (ADEs), i.e., unit NCs with precise control of shape and size, and their relative positions in the design. Similar to molecular engineering, where structural diversity is used to create more property variations for application explorations, the architectural engineering of HMNCs can similarly increase the utility of metal NCs by offering a suite of properties to support multifunctionality in applications. The architectural engineering of HMNCs calls for processes and operations that can execute the design. Some enabling technologies already exist in the form of classical micro- and macroscale fabrication techniques, such as masking and etching. These processes, when used singly or in combination, are fully capable of fabricating nanoscopic objects. What is needed is a detailed understanding of the engineering control of ADEs and the translation of these principles into actual processes. For simplicity of execution, these processes should be integrated into a common reaction system and yet retain independence of control. The key to architectural diversity is therefore the independent controllability of each ADE in the design blueprint. The right chemical tools must be applied under the right circumstances in order to achieve the desired outcome. In this Account, after a short illustration of the infinite possibility of combining different ADEs to create HMNC design variations, we introduce the fabrication processes for each ADE, which enable shape, size, and location control of the unit NCs in a particular HMNC design. The principles of these processes are discussed and illustrated with examples. We then discuss how these processes may be integrated into a common reaction system while retaining the independence of individual processes. The principles for the independent control of each ADE are discussed in detail to lay the foundation for the selection of the chemical reaction system and its operating space.


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