The intense research interest in nanoscience and nanotechnology is largely fueled by the unique properties of nanoscale materials. In this dissertation, the research efforts are focused on surface functionalization and interfacial engineering of functional nanoparticles in the preparation of patchy nanoparticles (e.g., Janus nanoparticles and Neapolitan nanoparticles) such that the nanoparticle structures and properties may be manipulated to an unprecedented level of sophistication.
Experimentally, Janus nanoparticles were prepared by an interfacial engineering method where one hemisphere of the originally hydrophobic nanoparticles was replaced with hydrophilic ligands at the air|liquid or solid|liquid interface. The amphiphilic surface characters of the Janus nanoparticles were verified by contact angle measurements, as compared to those of the bulk-exchange counterparts where the two types of ligands were distributed rather homogeneously on the nanoparticle surface.
In a further study, a mercapto derivative of diacetylene was used as the hydrophilic ligands to prepare Janus nanoparticles by using hydrophobic hexanethiolate-protected gold nanoparticles as the starting materials. Exposure to UV irradiation led to effective covalent cross-linking between the diacetylene moieties of neighboring ligands and hence marked enhancement of the structural integrity of the Janus nanoparticles, which was attributable to the impeded surface diffusion of the thiol ligands on the nanoparticle surface, as manifested in fluorescence measurements of aged nanoparticles.
More complicated bimetallic AgAu Janus nanoparticles were prepared by interfacial galvanic exchange reactions of a Langmuir-Blodgett monolayer of 1-hexanethiolate-passivated silver nanoparticles on a glass slide with gold(I)-mercaptopropanediol complex in a water/ethanol solution. The resulting nanoparticles exhibited an asymmetrical distribution not only of the organic capping ligands on the nanoparticle surface but also of the metal elements in the nanoparticle cores, in contrast to the bulk-exchange counterparts where these distributions were homogeneous within the nanoparticles, as manifested in contact angle, UV-vis, XPS, and TEM measurements. More interestingly, the electrocatalytic performance of the Janus nanoparticles was markedly better than the bulk-exchange ones, suggesting that the segregated distribution of the polar ligands from the apolar ones might further facilitate charge transfer from Ag to Au in the nanoparticle cores, leading to additional improvement of the adsorption and reduction of oxygen.
This interfacial protocol was then adopted to prepare trimetallic Ag@AuPt Neapolitan nanoparticles by two sequential galvanic exchange reactions of 1-hexanethiolate-capped silver nanoparticles with gold(I)-thiomalic acid and platinum(II)-hexanethiolate complexes. As both reactions were confined to an interface, the Au and Pt elements were situated on two opposite poles of the original Ag nanoparticles, which was clearly manifested in elemental mapping of the nanoparticles, and consistent with the damping and red-shift of the nanoparticle surface plasmon resonance.
As nanoscale analogs to conventional amphiphilic molecules, the resulting Janus nanoparticles were found to form oil-in-water micelle-like or water-in-oil reverse micelle-like superparticulate structures depending on the solvent media. These unique characteristics were exploited for the effective transfer of diverse guest nanoparticles between organic and water phase. The transfer of hydrophobic nanoparticles from organic to water media or water-soluble nanoparticles to the organic phase was evidenced by TEM, DLS, UV-Vis, and PL measurements. In particular, line scans based on EDS analysis showed that the vesicle-like structures consisted of multiple layers of the Janus nanoparticles, which encapsulated the guest nanoparticles in the cores. The results highlight the unique effectiveness of using Janus nanoparticles in the formation of functional nanocomposites.
Part of the dissertation research was also devoted to graphene quantum dots (GQDs)-supported platinum (Pt/G) nanoparticles and their electrocatalytic activity in oxygen reduction reaction. These Pt/G nanocomposites were prepared by a hydrothermal procedure at controlled temperatures. Spectroscopic measurements based on FTIR, Raman and XPS confirmed the formation of various oxygenated structural defects on GQDs and the variation of their concentrations with the hydrothermal conditions. Interestingly, electrocatalytic activity of GQD/Pt composites exhibited a volcano-shaped variation with the GQD structural defects, with the best identified as the samples prepared at 160 °C for 6 h where the mass activity was found to meet the DOE target for 2015. This remarkable performance was accounted for by the deliberate manipulation of the adsorption of oxygen and reaction intermediates on platinum by the GQD structural defects through partial charge transfer. The strategy presented herein may offer a new paradigm in the design and engineering of nanoparticle catalysts for fuel cell electrochemistry.
In addition, studies were also carried out to study intervalence charge transfer between ferrocenyl moieties bonded on carbon nanoparticle surfaces by diazonium reaction. Electrochemical studies exhibited two pairs of voltammetric waves with a difference of their formal potentials at about 78 mV, suggesting nanoparticle-mediated intraparticle charge delocalization at mixed valence as a result of the strong core-ligand covalent bonds and the conductive sp2 carbon matrix of the graphitic cores. Consistent behaviors were observed in near-infrared measurements, indicating that the particles behaved analogously to a Class I/II mixed-valence compound.