Particle or Cluster: On the Atomic Structure of the Seeds Used in Gold Nanoparticle Synthesis



Seed-mediated synthesis strategies, in which small nanoparticle precursors are added to a growth solution to initiate heterogeneous nucleation, are among the most prevalent, simple, and productive methodologies for generating well-defined colloidal anisotropic nanostructures. Here, we identify the majority component in the seed solution as an atomically-precise gold nanocluster, consisting of a 32 atom Au core with 8 halide ligands and 12 neutral ligands constituting a bound ion pair between a halide and the cationic surfactant: Au32X8[AQA+•X-]12 (X = Cl, Br; AQA = alkyl quaternary ammonium). Ligand exchange is dynamic and versatile, occurring on the order of minutes and allowing for the formation of 48 distinct Au32 clusters with AQAX (alkyl quaternary ammonium halide) ligands. Anisotropic nanoparticle syntheses seeded with solutions enriched in Au32X8[AQA+•X-]12 show narrower size distributions and fewer impurity particle shapes, indicating the importance of this cluster as a precursor to the growth of well-defined nanostructures.


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