Chiral gold and silver nanoclusters: Preparation, size selection, and chiroptical properties

Mostafa Farrag, Martin Tschurl, Ulrich Heiz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


In this work we studied different properties of gold and silver nanoclusters (AuNCs and AgNCs) protected by the chiral ligands l-glutathione (L-GSH), and N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NALC), and we present a thorough characterization of the synthesized clusters. The synthesis was performed by reduction of the corresponding metal salt with NaBH4. Fractions of gold nanoclusters with different sizes were isolated by methanol-induced precipitation. The ellipticity of the clusters was obtained by circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy, showing that the chirality of the ligands is transferred to the metal core either in its structure or at least in its electronic states via perturbation of the electronic field of the ligands. The optical properties of gold and silver nanoclusters in water were studied by UV-vis spectroscopy. The absorption signal of the clusters shows characteristic bands, which can be assigned to plasmonic transitions of the metal core. In addition, UV-vis spectroscopy has served as a tool for studying the stability of these clusters in air. In general, gold nanoclusters are highly stable in air, and it was found that the stability of Aun(NALC)m clusters even exceeds that of Aun(SG)m clusters. In contrast to gold clusters, silver nanoclusters very often tend to decompose upon exposure to air. We found, however, that Agn(NALC)m are surprisingly stable at atmospheric pressures. The average molecular formula of the nanoclusters was determined by thermogravimetric analysis (TGA). The particle sizes of AuNCs and AgNCs were assessed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and powder X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis. For studying the fluorescent properties of the metal nanoparticles, photoluminescence spectroscopy (PL) was performed. In summary, we succeeded to synthesize ligand-protected silver clusters (Agn(NALC)m) with very high stability and rather narrow size distribution; furthermore, we could show the controlled precipitation to be applicable to other systems, such as that Au n(NALC)m, yielding two fraction of very narrow size distribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)862-870
Number of pages9
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number6
StatePublished - 26 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • N -acetyl-l -cysteine
  • chiral clusters
  • controlled precipitation
  • gold nanoclusters
  • l -glutathione
  • silver nanoclusters


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