Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) single particle analysis (SPA) has revolutionized biology, revealing the hydrated structure of numerous macromolecules. Yet, the potential of SPA to study inorganic materials remains largely unexplored. An area that could see great impact is solution-processed device materials, where solution changes affect everything from crystal morphology for perovskite photovoltaics to stability of photoluminescent quantum dots. While with traditional microscopy, structures underlying these effects can only be analyzed after drying, cryo-EM allows characterization of in-solution structures, revealing how features arise during processing. A top candidate for such characterization is found in chalcogenide glasses (ChGs), which researchers in the 1980s proposed take on solvent-dependent solution nanostructures whose morphologies have yet to be confirmed. Here we show that cryo-EM can directly image ChGs in solution and combine with other techniques to connect solution structure to film characteristics. Our results bring closure to a long open question in optoelectronics and establish SPA as a tool for solution-processed materials.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials