A Systematic Study of the Synthesis of Silver Nanoplates: Is Citrate a “Magic” Reagent?

In this work we have carried out systematic studies and identified the critical role of hydrogen peroxide instead of the generally believed citrate in the well-known chemical reduction route to silver nanoplates. This improved understanding allows us to develop consistently reproducible processes for the synthesis of nanoplates with high efficiency and yields. By harnessing the oxidative power of H2O2, various silver sources including silver salts and metallic silver can be directly converted to nanoplates with the assistance of an appropriate capping ligand, thus significantly enhancing the reproducibility of the synthesis. Contrary to the previous conclusion that citrate is the key component, we have determined that the group of ligands with selective adhesion to Ag (111) facets can be expanded to many di- and tricarboxylate compounds whose two nearest carboxylate groups are separated by two or three carbon atoms. We have also found that the widely used secondary ligand polyvinylpyrrolidone can be replaced by many hydroxyl group-containing compounds or even removed entirely while still producing nanoplates of excellent uniformity and stability. In addition to the general understanding of NaBH4 as a reducing agent, it has also been found to act as a capping agent to stabilize the silver nanoparticles, prolong the initiation time required for nanoplate nucleation, and contribute to the control of the thickness as well as the aspect ratio of silver nanoplates. The improved insight into the specific roles of the reaction components and significantly enhanced reproducibility are expected to help elucidate the formation mechanism of this interesting nanostructure.