Cooperative particle rearrangements facilitate the self-organized growth of colloidal crystal arrays on strain-relief patterns

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Science Advances  04 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 10, eaay8418
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay8418


Strain-relief pattern formation in heteroepitaxy is well understood for particles with long-range attraction and is a routinely exploited organizational principle for atoms and molecules. However, for particles with short-range attraction such as colloids and nanoparticles, which form brittle assemblies, the mechanism(s) of strain-relief is not known. Here, we found that for colloids with short-range attraction, monolayer films on substrates with square symmetry could accommodate large compressive misfit strains through locally dewetted hexagonally ordered stripes. Unexpectedly, over a window of compressive strains, cooperative particle rearrangements first resulted in a periodic strain-relief pattern, which then guided the growth of laterally ordered defect-free colloidal crystals. Particle-resolved imaging of monomer dynamics on strained substrates also helped uncover cooperative kinetic pathways for surface transport. These processes, which substantially influenced the film morphology, have remained unobserved in atomic heteroepitaxy studies hitherto. Leaning on our findings, we developed a heteroepitaxy approach for fabricating hierarchically ordered surface structures.

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