Influence of CTAB on Gold Nanocrystal Formation Studied by In Situ Liquid Cell Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy

Silvia A. Canepa, Brian T. Sneed, Honguy Sun, Raymond R. Unocic and Kristian Molhave, 2018
diagram of Au nanoparticle synthesis in situ
Image courtesy of Journal of Physical Chemistry C


The synthesis of monodisperse size- and shape-controlled Au nanocrystals is often achieved with cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) surfactant; however, its role in the growth of such tailored nanostructures is not well understood. To elucidate the formation mechanism(s) and evolution of the morphology of Au nanocrystals in the early growth stage, we present an in situ liquid-cell scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) investigation using electron beam-induced radiolytic species as the reductant. The resulting particle shape at a low beam dose rate is shown to be strongly influenced by the surfactant; the Au nanocrystal growth rate is suppressed by increasing the CTAB concentration. At a low CTAB concentration, the nanoparticles (NPs) follow a reaction-limited growth mechanism, while at high a CTAB concentration the NPs follow a diffusion-limited mechanism, as described by the Lifshitz–Slyozov–Wagner (LSW) model. Moreover, we investigate the temporal evolution of specific NP geometries. The amount of Au reduced by the electron beam outside the irradiated area is quantified to better interpret the nanocrystal growth kinetics, as well as to further develop an understanding of electron beam interactions with nanomaterials toward improving the interpretation of in situ measurements.

Impact Statement

The influence of the concentration of the common surfactant ligand, cetyltrime- thylammonium bromide (CTAB) on gold nanoparticle morphology and growth kinetics under different electron beam conditions was studied. Gold nanoparticles were grown via electron beam reduction of HAuCl4 salt solutions using LC-TEM in the presence of CTAB. The concentraiton of CTAB and the electron dose had a considerable influence on the resulting nanoparticle size and shape.