Adsorption and diffusion of colloidal Au nanoparticles at a liquid-vapor interface

NN Poddar and JG Amar, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 140, 244702 (2014).

DOI: 10.1063/1.4884022

Motivated by recent drop-drying experiments of Au nanoparticle (NP) island self-assembly, we investigate the structure, diffusion, and binding of dodecanethiol-coated Au NPs adsorbed at the toluene-vapor interface using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations as well as analytical calculations. For a 6 nm core diameter NP our results indicate the existence of significant intermixing between the ligands and the solvent. As a result, the NP lies primarily below the interface with only a portion of the ligands sticking out, while the toluene-vapor interface is significantly higher in the region above the NP core than away from the NP. These results are consistent with a competition between the negative free energy of mixing of toluene and the dodecanethiol ligands, which tends to keep the NP below the interface, and the effects of surface tension which keeps the NP near the interface. Consistent with this result, we find that the coefficient for nanoparticle diffusion along the interface is close to the Stokes- Einstein prediction for three-dimensional bulk diffusion. An analysis of the ligand arrangement surrounding the NP also indicates that there is relatively little asymmetry in the ligand-coating. We then consider the effects of van der Waals interactions on the adsorption energy. In particular, we derive an analytical expression for the van der Waals interaction energy between a coated nanoparticle and the surrounding solvent along with a closed-form expression for the van der Waals corrections to the binding energy at the interface due to the long-range core-solvent interaction. Using these results along with the results of our MD simulations, we then estimate the van der Waals corrections to the adsorption energy for dodecanethiol-coated Au nanoparticles at the toluene-vapor interface as well as for decanethiol-coated nanoparticles at the water-vapor interface. In both cases, we find that the long-range core-solvent interaction may significantly reduce the binding energy. Based on these results, we conclude that in many cases, the core-solvent van der Waals interaction is likely to have a significant effect on the binding energy and interface position of Au NPs. Our results also indicate that the competition between the van der Waals interaction and the short-range attraction to the interface leads to the existence of well-defined activation barriers for nanoparticle adsorption from the solvent as well as for interfacial desorption. (C) 2014 AIP Publishing LLC.

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