Role of Metal Cations in Plasmon-Catalyzed Oxidation: A Case Study of p‑Aminothiophenol Dimerization

The mechanism of the plasmon-catalyzed reaction of p-aminothiophenol (PATP) to 4,4′-dimercaptoazobenzene (DMAB) on the surface of metal nanoparticles has been discussed using data from surface-enhanced Raman scattering of DMAB. Oxides and hydroxides formed in a plasmon-catalyzed process were proposed to play a central role in the reaction. Here, we report DMAB formation on gold nanoparticles occurring in the presence of the metal cations Ag+, Au3+, Pt4+, and Hg2+. The experiments were carried out under conditions where formation of gold oxide or hydroxide from the nanoparticles can be excluded and at high pH where the formation of the corresponding oxidic species from the metal ions is favored. On the basis of our results, we conclude that, under these conditions, the selective oxidation of PATP to DMAB takes place via formation of a metal oxide from the ionic species in a plasmon-catalyzed process. By evidencing the necessity of the presence of the metal cations, the reported results underpin the importance of metal oxides in the reaction.