Visualizing defect dynamics by assembling the colloidal graphene lattice

Piet J.M. Swinkels, Zhe Gong, Stefano Sacanna, Eva G. Noya, Peter Schall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Graphene has been under intense scientific interest because of its remarkable optical, mechanical and electronic properties. Its honeycomb structure makes it an archetypical two-dimensional material exhibiting a photonic and phononic band gap with topologically protected states. Here, we assemble colloidal graphene, the analogue of atomic graphene using pseudo-trivalent patchy particles, allowing particle-scale insight into crystal growth and defect dynamics. We directly observe the formation and healing of common defects, like grain boundaries and vacancies using confocal microscopy. We identify a pentagonal defect motif that is kinetically favoured in the early stages of growth, and acts as seed for more extended defects in the later stages. We determine the conformational energy of the crystal from the bond saturation and bond angle distortions, and follow its evolution through the energy landscape upon defect rearrangement and healing. These direct observations reveal that the origins of the most common defects lie in the early stages of graphene assembly, where pentagons are kinetically favoured over the equilibrium hexagons of the honeycomb lattice, subsequently stabilized during further growth. Our results open the door to the assembly of complex 2D colloidal materials and investigation of their dynamical, mechanical and optical properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1524
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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