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Thiolate end-group regulates ligand arrangement, hydration and affinity for small compounds in monolayer-protected gold nanoparticles



The ability to control the properties of monolayer protected gold nanoparticles (MPNPs) discloses unrevealed features stemming from collective properties of the ligands forming the monolayer and presents opportunities to design new materials. To date, the influence of ligand end-group size and capacity to form hydrogen bonds on structure and hydration of small MPNPs (<5 nm) has been poorly studied.

Here, we show that both features determine ligands order, solvent accessibility, capacity to host hydrophobic compounds and interfacial properties of MPNPs. The polarity perceived by a radical probe and its binding constant with the monolayer investigated by electron spin resonance is rationalized by molecular dynamics simulations, which suggest that larger space-filling groups - trimethylammonium, zwitterionic and short polyethylene glycol - favor a radial organization of the thiolates, whereas smaller groups - as sulfonate - promote the formation of bundles.

Zwitterionic ligands create a surface network of hydrogen bonds, which affects nanoparticle hydrophobicity and maximize the partition equilibrium constant of the probe. This study discloses the role of the chemistry of the end-group on monolayer features with effects that span from molecular-to nano-scale and opens the door to a shift in the conception of new MPNPs exploiting the end-group as a novel design motif. (c) 2021 Elsevier Inc.

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