Structural and theoretical basis for ligand exchange on thiolate monolayer protected gold nanoclusters

J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Aug 15;134(32):13316-22. doi: 10.1021/ja3032339. Epub 2012 Aug 2.


Ligand exchange reactions are widely used for imparting new functionality on or integrating nanoparticles into devices. Thiolate-for-thiolate ligand exchange in monolayer protected gold nanoclusters has been used for over a decade; however, a firm structural basis of this reaction has been lacking. Herein, we present the first single-crystal X-ray structure of a partially exchanged Au(102)(p-MBA)(40)(p-BBT)(4) (p-MBA = para-mercaptobenzoic acid, p-BBT = para-bromobenzene thiol) with p-BBT as the incoming ligand. The crystal structure shows that 2 of the 22 symmetry-unique p-MBA ligand sites are partially exchanged to p-BBT under the initial fast kinetics in a 5 min timescale exchange reaction. Each of these ligand-binding sites is bonded to a different solvent-exposed Au atom, suggesting an associative mechanism for the initial ligand exchange. Density functional theory calculations modeling both thiol and thiolate incoming ligands postulate a mechanistic pathway for thiol-based ligand exchange. The discrete modification of a small set of ligand binding sites suggests Au(102)(p-MBA)(44) as a powerful platform for surface chemical engineering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Ligands
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Solvents / chemistry
  • Thermodynamics


  • Ligands
  • Solvents
  • Gold