Minimum Free-Energy Shapes of Ag Nanocrystals: Vacuum vs Solution

TY Yan and HZ Zhang and KA Fichthorn, ACS NANO, 17, 19288-19304 (2023).

DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.3c06395

We use two variants of replica-exchange molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, parallel tempering MD and partial replica exchange MD, to probe the minimum free-energy shapes of Ag nanocrystals containing 100-200 atoms in a vacuum, ethylene glycol (EG) solvent, and EG solvent with a PVP polymer containing 100 repeat units. Our simulations reveal a shape intermediate between a Dh and an Ih, a Dh-Ih, that has distinct structural signatures and magic sizes. We find several prominent features associated with entropy: pure FCC nanocrystals are less common than FCC crystals containing stacking faults, and crystals with the minimum potential energy are not always preferred over the range of relevant temperatures. The shapes of the nanocrystals in solution are influenced by the chemical identities of the solution-phase molecules. Comparing Ag nanocrystal shapes in EG to those in an EG+PVP solution, we find more icosahedra in EG and more decahedra in EG+PVP across all of the nanocrystal sizes probed in this study. At certain critical sizes, nanocrystal shapes can change dramatically with the addition and removal of a single atom or with a change in temperature at a fixed size. The information in our study could be useful in efforts to devise processing routes to achieve selective nanocrystal shapes.

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