Photoinduced nanobubble-driven superfast diffusion of nanoparticles imaged by 4D electron microscopy

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Science Advances  25 Aug 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 8, e1701160
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701160


Dynamics of active or propulsive Brownian particles in nonequilibrium status have recently attracted great interest in many fields including artificial micro/nanoscopic motors and biological entities. Understanding of their dynamics can provide insight into the statistical properties of physical and biological systems far from equilibrium. We report the translational dynamics of photon-activated gold nanoparticles (NPs) in water imaged by liquid-cell four-dimensional electron microscopy (4D-EM) with high spatiotemporal resolution. Under excitation of femtosecond laser pulses, we observed that those NPs exhibit superfast diffusive translation with a diffusion constant four to five orders of magnitude greater than that in the absence of laser excitation. The measured diffusion constant follows a power-law dependence on the laser fluence and a linear increase with the laser repetition rate, respectively. This superfast diffusion of the NPs is induced by a strong random driving force arising from the photoinduced steam nanobubbles (NBs) near the NP surface. In contrast, the NPs exhibit a superfast ballistic translation at a short time scale down to nanoseconds. Combining with a physical model simulation, this study reveals a photoinduced NB propulsion mechanism for propulsive motion, providing physical insights into better design of light-activated artificial micro/nanomotors. The liquid-cell 4D-EM also provides the potential of studying other numerical dynamical behaviors in their native environments.

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