Local Photo-Mechanical Stiffness Revealed in Gold Nanoparticles Supracrystals by Ultrafast Small-Angle Electron Diffraction

Struct Dyn. 2019 Apr 12;6(2):024304. doi: 10.1063/1.5091858. eCollection 2019 Mar.


We demonstrate that highly ordered two-dimensional crystals of ligand-capped gold nanoparticles display a local photo-mechanical stiffness as high as that of solids such as graphite. In out-of-equilibrium electron diffraction experiments, a strong temperature jump is induced in a thin film with a femtosecond laser pulse. The initial electronic excitation transfers energy to the underlying structural degrees of freedom, with a rate generally proportional to the stiffness of the material. Using femtosecond small-angle electron diffraction, we observe the temporal evolution of the diffraction feature associated with the nearest-neighbor nanoparticle distance. The Debye-Waller decay for the octanethiol-capped nanoparticle supracrystal, in particular, is found to be unexpectedly fast, almost as fast as the stiffest solid known and observed by the same technique, i.e., graphite. Our observations unravel that local stiffness in a dense supramolecular assembly can be created by van der Waals interactions up to a level comparable to crystalline systems characterized by covalent bonding.