The Role of Dimer Formation in the Nucleation of Superlattice Transformations and Its Impact on Disorder
IY Chen and JC daSilva and DM Balazs and MA Smeaton and LF Kourkoutis and T Hanrath and P Clancy, ACS NANO, 14, 11431-11441 (2020).
The formation of defect-free two-dimensional nanocrystal (NC) superstructures remains a challenge as persistent defects hinder charge delocalization and related device performance. Understanding defect formation is an important step toward developing strategies to mitigate their formation. However, specific mechanisms of defect formation are difficult to determine, as superlattice phase transformations that occur during fabrication are quite complex and there are a variety of factors influencing the disorder in the final structure. Here, we use Molecular Dynamics (MD) and electron microscopy in concert to investigate the nucleation of the epitaxial attachment of lead chalcogenide (PbX, where X = S, Se) NC assemblies. We use an updated implementation of an existing reactive force field in an MD framework to investigate how initial orientational (mis)alignment of the constituent building blocks impacts the final structure of the epitaxially connected superlattice. This Simple Molecular Reactive Force Field (SMRFF) captures both short- range covalent forces and long-range electrostatic forces and allows us to follow orientational and translational changes of NCs during superlattice transformation. Our simulations reveal how robust the oriented attachment is with regard to the initial configuration of the NCs, measuring its sensitivity to both in-plane and out-of-plane misorientation. We show that oriented attachment nucleates through the initial formation of dimers, which corroborate experimentally observed structures. We present high-resolution structural analysis of dimers at early stages of the superlattice transformation and rationalize their contribution to the formation of defects in the final superlattice. Collectively, the simulations and experiments presented in this paper provide insights into the nucleation of NC oriented attachment, the impact of the initial configuration of NCs on the structural fidelity of the final epitaxially connected superlattice, and the propensity to form commonly observed defects, such as missing bridges and atomic misalignment in the superlattice due to the formation of dimers. We present potential strategies to mitigate the formation of superlattice defects.
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