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Insights into the Early Stages of Metal Nanoparticle Formation via First-Principle Calculations: the Roles of Citrate and Water

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journal contribution
posted on 15.07.2008, 00:00 by Giannis Mpourmpakis, Dionisios G. Vlachos
The early stages of silver nanoparticle formation in the presence of citrate and water have been investigated via first-principle theoretical calculations. Our study revealed that the charge density of the clusters is a key factor determining the selectivity among various growth pathways. An optimal charge density appears to control the selection between neutral and charged species in cluster growth; partially positively charged clusters are thermodynamically preferred and can serve as seeds for further growth. They interact favorably with both the solvent, leading to their solubility, and the citrate. The solvent (water) plays an important role in cluster growth both on the energetics of reactions including highly charged clusters and on the geometry of the resulting silver structures by preventing the formation of asymmetric ones (a structure directing action). Contrary to the common belief we found, from an energetic viewpoint, that growth of small clusters is not blocked by the citrate. Citrate, by acting as a reducing agent, opens up new channels for cluster growth involving highly charged species. By regulating the cluster charge, cluster−cluster associations may be promoted by the citrate, providing a new mechanistic interpretation for the effect of citrate concentration on nanoparticle size substantially different from the classic nucleation theory. From the citrate−silver and water−silver cluster interactions, linear free energy relationships have been retrieved that provide insights into metal nanoparticle growth mechanisms.