Cryogenic electron tomography to determine thermodynamic quantities for nanoparticle dispersions

Quy Ong, Ting Mao, Neda I. Anaraki, Lukasz Richter, Carla Malinverni, Xufeng Xu, Francesca Olgiati, Paulo H. J. Silva, Anna Murello, Davide Demurtas, Seishi Shimizu, Francesco Stellacci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Here we present a method to extract thermodynamic quantities for nanoparticle dispersions in solvents. The method is based on the study of tomograms obtained from cryogenic electron tomography (cryoET). The approach is demonstrated for gold nanoparticles (diameter < 5 nm). Tomograms are reconstructed from tilt-series 2D images. Once the three-dimensional (3D) coordinates for the centres of mass of all of the particles in the sample are determined, we calculate the pair distribution function g(r) and the potential of mean force U(r) without any assumption. Importantly, we show that further quantitative information from 3D tomograms is readily available as the spatial fluctuation in the particles’ position can be efficiently determined. This in turn allows for the prompt derivation of the Kirkwood-Buff integrals with all their associated quantities such as the second virial coefficient. Finally, the structure factor and the agglomeration states of the particles are evaluated directly. These thermodynamic quantities provide key insights into the dispersion properties of the particles. The method works well both for dispersed systems containing isolated particles and for systems with varying degrees of agglomerations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-311
Number of pages9
JournalMaterials Horizons
Issue number1
Early online date5 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

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© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2021

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