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Microscopic Analysis of Heterogeneous Nucleation of Nanoparticle Superstructures

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posted on 23.04.2020, 19:14 by Ann-Kathrin Göppert, Guillermo González-Rubio, Helmut Cölfen
Nucleation phenomena play an important role in our world, and understanding them is of major interest. However, we lack analytical methods with the sufficient temporal and spatial resolution to analyze nucleation processes. In this work we used CTAB-stabilized gold nanocubes as a model system for nucleation, meaning the nanoparticles act like ions or atoms and built up larger superstructures comparable to normal nucleation phenomena. Thereby we analyzed the heterogeneous nucleation of the gold nanocubes on hydrophobized and negatively charged mica surfaces with a combination of UV–vis–NIR spectroscopy and light microscopy. With the plasmon resonance of the gold nanocubes we gained valuable information about the early nucleation of the particles and their concentration in solution via UV–vis–NIR spectroscopy. The combination with a light microscope enabled the simultaneous detection of nucleated species on the surfaces and opened the possibility to analyze the kinetics of the heterogeneous nucleation process. With this, we were able to determine the nucleation rates. While the hydrophobized surfaces did not influence the nucleation of the gold nanocubes, the negatively charged surfaces greatly promoted the nucleation. Thereby, we could demonstrate that the combination of simple and commonly available light microscopy and optical spectroscopies in general is a suitable and easy strategy to analyze heterogeneous nucleation processes directly in solution on a relevant statistical basis.

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