A general one-step synthesis of alkanethiyl-stabilized gold nanoparticles with control over core size and monolayer functionality

Stefan Borsley, William Edwards, Ioulia Mati, Guillaume Poss, Marta Diez-Castellnou, Nicolas Marro, Euan Robert Kay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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In spite of widespread interest in the unique size-dependent properties and consequent applications of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs), synthetic protocols that reliably allow for independent tuning of surface chemistry and core size, the two critical determinants of AuNP properties, remain limited. Often, core size is inherently affected by the ligand structure in an unpredictable fashion. Functionalized ligands are commonly introduced using postsynthesis exchange procedures, which can be inefficient and operationally delicate. Here, we report a one-step protocol for preparing monolayer-stabilized AuNPs that is compatible with a wide range of ligand functional groups and also allows for the systematic control of core size. In a single-phase reaction using the mild reducing agent tert-butylamine borane, AuNPs that are compatible with solvents spanning a wide range of polarities from toluene to water can be produced without damaging reactive chemical functionalities within the small-molecule surface-stabilizing ligands. We demonstrate that the rate of reduction, which is easily controlled by adjusting the period over which the reducing agent is added, is a simple parameter that can be used irrespective of the ligand structure to adjust the core size of AuNPs without broadening the size distribution. Core sizes in the range of 2–10 nm can thus be generated. The upper size limit appears to be determined by the nature of each specific ligand/solvent pairing. This protocol produces high quality, functionally sophisticated nanoparticles in a single step. By combining the ability to vary size-related nanoparticle properties with the option to incorporate reactive functional groups at the nanoparticle–solvent interface, it is possible to generate chemically reactive colloidal building blocks from which more complex nanoparticle-based devices and materials may subsequently be constructed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6168-6177
Number of pages10
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number15
Early online date17 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2023


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