The story of a monodisperse gold nanoparticle: Au25L18

Acc Chem Res. 2010 Sep 21;43(9):1289-96. doi: 10.1021/ar100048c.


Au nanoparticles (NPs) with protecting organothiolate ligands and core diameters smaller than 2 nm are interesting materials because their size-dependent properties range from metal-like to molecule-like. This Account focuses on the most thoroughly investigated of these NPs, Au(25)L(18). Future advances in nanocluster catalysis and electronic miniaturization and biological applications such as drug delivery will depend on a thorough understanding of nanoscale materials in which molecule-like characteristics appear. This Account tells the story of Au(25)L(18) and its associated synthetic, structural, mass spectrometric, electron transfer, optical spectroscopy, and magnetic resonance results. We also reference other Au NP studies to introduce helpful synthetic and measurement tools. Historically, nanoparticle sizes have been described by their diameters. Recently, researchers have reported actual molecular formulas for very small NPs, which is chemically preferable to solely reporting their size. Au(25)L(18) is a success story in this regard; however, researchers initially mislabeled this NP as Au(28)L(16) and as Au(38)L(24) before correctly identifying it by electrospray-ionization mass spectrometry. Because of its small size, this NP is amenable to theoretical investigations. In addition, Au(25)L(18)'s accessibility in pure form and molecule-like properties make it an attractive research target. The properties of this NP include a large energy gap readily seen in cyclic voltammetry (related to its HOMO-LUMO gap), a UV-vis absorbance spectrum with step-like fine structure, and NIR fluorescence emission. A single crystal structure and theoretical analysis have served as important steps in understanding the chemistry of Au(25)L(18). Researchers have determined the single crystal structure of both its "native" as-prepared form, a [N((CH(2))(7)CH(3))(4)(1+)][Au(25)(SCH(2)CH(2)Ph)(18)(1-)] salt, and of the neutral, oxidized form Au(25)(SCH(2)CH(2)Ph)(18)(0). A density functional theory (DFT) analysis correctly predicted essential elements of the structure. The NP is composed of a centered icosahedral Au(13) core stabilized by six Au(2)(SR)(3) semirings. These semirings present interesting implications regarding other small Au nanoparticle clusters. Many properties of the Au(25) NP result from these semiring structures. This overview of the identification, structure determination, and analytical properties of perhaps the best understood Au nanoparticle provides results that should be useful for further analyses and applications. We also hope that the story of this nanoparticle will be useful to those who teach about nanoparticle science.