Insights into initial kinetic nucleation of gold nanocrystals

J Am Chem Soc. 2010 Jun 9;132(22):7696-701. doi: 10.1021/ja101101d.


Understanding the initial nucleation mechanism of monodisperse nanocrystals (NCs) during synthesis process is an important prerequisite to control the desired sizes and to manipulate the properties of nanoscale materials. The acquisition of information for the small nanocluster nucleation process, however, still remains challenging. Here, using a continuous-flow in situ X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) spectroscopy for time-resolved studies, we have clarified the initial kinetic nucleation of Au clusters under the grain size of 1 nm for the classical Au NCs synthesis via the reduction of AuCl(4)(-) in aqueous solution. The in situ XAFS results present the experimental revelation of the formation of intermediate Cl(3)(-)Au-AuCl(3)(-) dimer and the subsequent higher complexes 'Au(n)Cl(n+x)' in the initial nucleation stage. We propose a kinetic three-step mechanism involving the initial nucleation, slow growth, and eventual coalescence for the Au NCs formation, which may be helpful for the synthesis of metallic nanomaterials.