Nucleation and island growth of alkanethiolate ligand domains on gold nanoparticles

Yifeng Wang, Offer Zeiri, Alevtina Neyman, Francesco Stellacci, Ira A. Weinstock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


The metal oxide cluster α-AlW 11O 39 9- (1), readily imaged by cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM), is used as a diagnostic protecting anion to investigate the self-assembly of alkanethiolate monolayers on electrostatically stabilized gold nanoparticles in water. Monolayers of 1 on 13.8 ± 0.9 nm diameter gold nanoparticles are displaced from the gold surface by mercaptoundecacarboxylate, HS(CH 2) 10CO 2 - (11-MU). During this process, no aggregation is observed by UV-vis spectroscopy, and the intermediate ligand-shell organizations of 1 in cryo-TEM images indicate the presence of growing hydrophobic domains, or "islands", of alkanethiolates. UV-vis spectroscopic "titrations", based on changes in the surface plasmon resonance upon exchange of 1 by thiol, reveal that the 330 ± 30 molecules of 1 initially present on each gold nanoparticle are eventually replaced by 2800 ± 30 molecules of 11-MU. UV-vis kinetic data for 11-MU-monolayer formation reveal a slow phase, followed by rapid self-assembly. The Johnson, Mehl, Avrami, and Kolmogorov model gives an Avrami parameter of 2.9, indicating continuous nucleation and two-dimensional island growth. During nucleation, incoming 11-MU ligands irreversibly displace 1 from the Au-NP surface via an associative mechanism, with k nucleation = (6.1 ± 0.4) × 10 2 M -1 s -1, and 19 ± 8 nuclei, each comprised of ca. 8 alkanethiolates, appear on the gold-nanoparticle surface before rapid growth becomes kinetically dominant. Island growth is also first-order in [11-MU], and its larger rate constant, k growth, (2.3 ± 0.2) × 10 4 M -1 s -1, is consistent with destabilization of molecules of 1 at the boundaries between the hydrophobic (alkanethiolate) and the electrostatically stabilized (inorganic) domains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-640
Number of pages12
JournalACS Nano
Issue number1
StatePublished - 24 Jan 2012


  • alkanethiol
  • cryo-TEM
  • gold nanoparticle
  • island growth
  • kinetics
  • monolayer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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