Reversible Size Control of Silver Nanoclusters via Ligand-Exchange

Megalamane Siddaramappa Bootharaju, Victor M. Burlakov, Tabot M.D. Besong, Chakra P. Joshi, Lina G. Abdulhalim, David M. Black, Robert L. Whetten, Alain Goriely, Osman M. Bakr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


The properties of atomically monodisperse noble metal nanoclusters (NCs) are intricately intertwined with their precise molecular formula. The vast majority of size-specific NC syntheses start from the reduction of the metal salt and thiol ligand mixture. Only in gold was it recently shown that ligand-exchange could induce the growth of NCs from one atomically precise species to another, a process of yet unknown reversibility. Here, we present a process for the ligand-exchange-induced growth of atomically precise silver NCs, in a biphasic liquid-liquid system, which is particularly of interest because of its complete reversibility and ability to occur at room temperature. We explore this phenomenon in-depth using Ag35(SG)18 [SG = glutathionate] and Ag44(4-FTP)30 [4-FTP = 4-fluorothiophenol] as model systems. We show that the ligand-exchange conversion of Ag35(SG)18 into Ag44(4-FTP)30 is rapid (<5 min) and direct, while the reverse process proceeds slowly through intermediate cluster sizes. We adapt a recently developed theory of reverse Ostwald ripening to model the NCs' interconvertibility. The model's predictions are in good agreement with the experimental observations, and they highlight the importance of small changes in the ligand-metal binding energy in determining the final equilibrium NC size. On the basis of the insight provided by this model, we demonstrated experimentally that by varying the choice of ligands, ligand-exchange can be used to obtain different sized NCs. The findings in this work establish ligand-exchange as a versatile tool for tuning cluster sizes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4289-4297
Number of pages9
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 23 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Materials Chemistry


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