Simple Determination of Gold Nanocrystal Dimensions by Analytical Ultracentrifugation via Surface Ligand-Solvent Density Matching

Guillermo González-RubioHolger HilbertRose RosenbergBing NiLisa FuhrerHelmut Cölfen

Analytical ultracentrifugation (AUC) is a powerful technique to observe colloidal nanocrystals (NCs) directly in solution and obtain critical information about their physical-chemical properties. Nevertheless, a more comprehensive implementation of AUC for the characterisation of such a class of crystalline colloids has been traditionally impaired by the requirement of having a priori knowledge of the complex, multilayered structure formed by NC in solution. This includes the nature (density and mass) of the surface ligands (SLs) that provide NC colloidal stability and the shell of solvent molecules formed on it. Herein, we propose a methodology to determine the NCs size by using SLs with a density equal to that of the solvent. Thereby, the buoyancy force of the SL shell is neutral, and the density of the NCs is sufficient a priori knowledge to calculate their related mass and size distributions. The simplicity and reliability of the method are evaluated with cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) stabilized spherical gold NCs (AuNCs) of dimensions ranging from 1 to 17 nm. The proposed method has great potential to be transferred to any non-crystalline and crystalline colloids of different nature and composition, which have a density that is equal to the bulk and can be stabilized by SLs having a density that matches that of the solvent.