Self-assembled metal nanoparticle-polymer nanocomposite particles as nanoreactors are a promising approach for performing liquid phase reactions using water as a bulk solvent. In this work, we demonstrate rapid, scalable self-assembly of metal nanoparticle catalyst-polymer nanocomposite particles via Flash NanoPrecipitation. The catalyst loading and size of the nanocomposite particles can be tuned independently. Using nanocomposite particles as nanoreactors and the reduction of 4-nitrophenol as a model reaction, we study the fundamental interplay of reaction and diffusion. The induction time is affected by the sequence of reagent addition, time between additions, and reagent concentration. Combined, our experiments indicate the induction time is most influenced by diffusion of sodium borohydride. Following the induction time, scaling analysis and effective diffusivity measured using NMR indicate that the observed reaction rate are reaction- rather than diffusion-limited. Furthermore, the intrinsic kinetics are comparable to ligand-free gold nanoparticles. This result indicates that the polymer microenvironment does not de-activate or block the catalyst active sites.
Keywords: Flash Nanoprecipitation; catalyst confinement; diffusion; nanoreactor.