Determinants of crystal structure transformation of ionic nanocrystals in cation exchange reactions

Shape and nanocrystal transformations

Cation exchange reactions that change the composition of a nanocrystal (NC) under mild conditions usually preserve the sublattice of the larger anions. Li et al. found that the shape of roxbyite (Cu1.8S) nanocrystals, which have a distorted, hexagonal, close-packed sulfide anion sublattice, affected the outcome of exchange reactions with cobalt ions. Flat nanoplates retained the anion lattice and formed cobalt sulfide, but tall nanorods transformed into Co9S8 nanocrystals with a cubic, close-packed structure. Facile crystal plane sliding in the taller nanocrystals appears to have driven the different layer stacking of sulfide anions.

Science, abh2741, this issue p. 332


Changes in the crystal system of an ionic nanocrystal during a cation exchange reaction are unusual yet remain to be systematically investigated. In this study, chemical synthesis and computational modeling demonstrated that the height of hexagonal-prism roxbyite (Cu1.8S) nanocrystals with a distorted hexagonal close-packed sulfide anion (S2−) sublattice determines the final crystal phase of the cation-exchanged products with Co2+ [wurtzite cobalt sulfide (CoS) with hexagonal close-packed S2– and/or cobalt pentlandite (Co9S8) with cubic close-packed S2–]. Thermodynamic instability of exposed planes drives reconstruction of anion frameworks under mild reaction conditions. Other incoming cations (Mn2+, Zn2+, and Ni2+) modulate crystal structure transformation during cation exchange reactions by various means, such as volume, thermodynamic stability, and coordination environment.

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