Dual-step reduction of copper and formation mechanism of Cu pseudo-icosahedral microcrystals

Weihao Sun, Wuzong Zhou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Downloads (Pure)


Pseudo-icosahedral Cu microcrystals have been synthesized in a solvothermal system containing CuSO4·5H2O as the precursor, polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) as a reductant/capping agent, and dimethylformamide as the solvent. The structural and morphological evolutions over the reaction time are investigated, which enable us to establish a novel formation mechanism of pseudo-icosahedral crystals of Cu. The first crystalline phase that appeared in the solution is Cu4SO4(OH)6·H2O in the form of microflakes. The microflakes are reduced and decomposed to Cu2O nanocrystallites, which assemble with PVP into spherulites. The Cu2O crystals are further reduced to Cu nanocrystallites, which aggregate with PVP again into spherical particles. An extraordinary phenomenon is that 20 separated (111) triangular plates form on each particle during surface recrystallization of Cu, and their locations match to the final facets of the pseudo-icosahedron. The plates extend to cover the whole surface of the sphere, forming a pseudo-icosahedral shell, followed by extension of the recrystallization from the surface to the core. This reversed crystal growth process increases the thickness of the plates until all the Cu nanocrystallites in the core are consumed. It is found that, during the surface recrystallization of polycrystalline spheres, the particles preferentially select the (111) planes of the face-centered cubic structure of Cu as the exposed faces because these planes have the minimum surface binding energy. The particles then try to keep as small as possible the specific surface area, and a pseudo-icosahedral shape consisting of 20 (111) plates, which has a specific surface area, about 10% lower than that of an octahedron, formed by eight (111) plates. Accordingly, the overall surface free energy of a pseudo-icosahedron is about 10% lower than that of an octahedron. The formation of tetrahedra as building units of icosahedra, as predicted previously, has not been observed. The formation of ideal icosahedra, the so-called perfect Platonic solid, and the formation of twin defects between neighboring (111) plates are not possible. The newly proposed formation mechanism of pseudo-icosahedra Cu sheds light on the understanding of formation of many other polyhedral crystals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2611-2619
Number of pages9
JournalCrystal Growth & Design
Issue number4
Early online date14 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Dual-step reduction of copper and formation mechanism of Cu pseudo-icosahedral microcrystals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this