Polymer size and concentration effects on the size of gold nanoparticles capped by polymeric thiols

Robert G. Shimmin, Andrew B. Schoch, Paul V. Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gold nanoparticles stabilized by thiol-terminated poly(ethylene glycol) monomethyl ethers with molecular weights ranging from 350 to 2000 have been prepared at thiol-to-gold molar ratios ranging from 3:1 to 1:8. Particle size distributions have been constructed for these particles from transmission electron microscopy images of hundreds of particles for each variation in synthetic conditions. The mean diameters of these particles range from 1.5 to 3.2 nm, with a slight increase in particle size with decreasing thiol content; these particles are smaller than those prepared using alkanethiols at similar thiol-to-gold ratios. Particles prepared under thiol-poor conditions exhibit much greater polydispersity than those prepared under thiol-rich conditions and include numerically rare large-particle outliers that contain much of the gold in the sample. The mean diameters of the gold nanoparticles decrease slightly with increasing polymer weight, especially under thiol-rich conditions. A simple model is developed to predict the trends in nanoparticle diameter that would result were the polymer's steric bulk protecting the nanoparticles from additional growth the principal factor controlling nanoparticle size in this system. This model predicts a much stronger dependence on thiol concentration than has been experimentally observed and a dependence on polymer molecular weight opposite to that experimentally observed. This suggests that the polymers' steric bulk is not the principal reason that these polymers yield smaller nanoparticles than alkanethiols at similar thiol-to-gold ratios. It is instead proposed that polar polymers may yield small nanoparticles by accelerating particle nucleation via coordination between functional groups in the polymer and atomic gold.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5613-5620
Number of pages8
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jun 22 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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