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When Like Destabilizes Like: Inverted Solvent Effects in Apolar Nanoparticle Dispersions

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journal contribution
posted on 23.04.2020, 17:09 by Debora Monego, Thomas Kister, Nicholas Kirkwood, David Doblas, Paul Mulvaney, Tobias Kraus, Asaph Widmer-Cooper
We report on the colloidal stability of nanoparticles with alkanethiol shells in apolar solvents. Small-angle X-ray scattering and molecular dynamics simulations were used to characterize the interaction between nanoparticles in linear alkane solvents ranging from hexane to hexadecane, including 4 nm gold cores with hexadecanethiol shells and 6 nm cadmium selenide cores with octadecanethiol shells. We find that the agglomeration is enthalpically driven and that, contrary to what one would expect from classical colloid theory, the temperature at which the particles agglomerate increases with increasing solvent chain length. We demonstrate that the inverted trend correlates with the temperatures at which the ligands order in the different solvents and show that the inversion is due to a combination of enthalpic and entropic effects that enhance the stability of the ordered ligand state as the solvent length increases. We also explain why cyclohexane is a better solvent than hexadecane despite the two having very similar solvation parameters.