Controlling the Synthesis of Bunte Salt Stabilized Gold Nanoparticles Using a Microreactor Platform in Concert with Small Angle X-ray Scattering Analysis
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Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) have garnered considerable attention for their interesting size-dependent properties. These properties have fueled applications that span a continuum ranging from simple to sophisticated. Applications for these materials have grown more complex as syntheses for these materials have improved. For simple applications, current synthetic processes are sufficient. However, development of syntheses that generate well-defined particle sizes with specifically tailored surface functionalities is an on-going challenge for chemists. The aim of this dissertation is to improve upon current AuNP syntheses to produce sophisticated materials needed to discover new material properties, and provide efficient access to materials to develop new advanced applications. The research described in this dissertation improves upon current methods for AuNP production by using a microreactor to provide enhanced mixing and synthetic control, and small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) as a precise, rapid, solution-based method for size distribution determination. Using four ligand-stabilized AuNP samples as reference materials, SAXS analysis was compared to traditional microscopic size determination. SAXS analysis provided similar average diameters while avoiding deposition artifacts, probing a larger number of particles, and reducing analysis time. Next, the limits of SAXS size analysis was evaluated, focusing on identifying multiple distributions in solution. Utilizing binary and ternary mixtures of well-defined AuNP reference samples, SAXS analysis was shown to be effective at identifying multiple distributions. While microscopy has limited ability to differentiate these modes, SAXS analysis is more rapid and introduces less researcher bias. Because AuNP size and ligand functionality are interdependent, accessing desired core sizes with varied functionality is challenging. To address this, a new microfluidic synthetic method was developed to produce thiolate-passivated AuNPs with targeted core sizes from 1.5 - 12 nm with tailored functionality. This ability to control size while independently varying surface functionality is unprecedented. Lastly, AuNP core formation was probed by simultaneous in situ SAXS and UV/visible spectroscopy. A coalescence mechanism for AuNP growth was observed when using Bunte salt ligands. This finding compares well to observed coalescence in other systems using weakly-passivating ligands, and supports the hypothesis that Bunte salts passivate ionically during particle growth while resulting in covalent linkages.