The atomic level assembly of silver dendrite has never been disclosed despite the numerous studies published on fractal dendrite structures. We report for the first time an HRTEM investigation of the formation of atomic embryos (< 5 nm) and the self-assembly of atoms on an atomic plane of the tip of a dendrite arm. The mechanism of dendrite formation proceeds via the sequence of amorphous embryos aggregates (5–10 nm), nuclei, crystallites (10–20 nm), dendritelets (50–100 nm) and submicron dendrite protypes. The atomic plane is an entirely atomic-level zig-zag structure with d-spacing kink steps. The zig-zag structure triggers the self-assembly of atoms and thus directional growth to produce a dendrite arm with a high aspect ratio.
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