Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Comparisons of Analytical Approaches for Determining Shell Thicknesses of Core-Shell Nanoparticles by X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy



Cedric J. Powell, Wolfgang Werner, Henryk Kalbe, Alexander Shard, David G. Castner


We assessed two approaches for determining shell thicknesses of core-shell nanoparticles (NPs) by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. These assessments were based on simulations of photoelectron peak intensities for Au-core/C-shell, C-core/Au-shell, Cu-core/Al-shell, and Al- core/Cu-shell NPs with a wide range of core diameters and shell thicknesses. First, we demonstrated the validity of an empirical equation developed by Shard for determinations of shell thicknesses. Values of shell thicknesses from the Shard equation typically agreed with actual shell thicknesses to better than 10 %. Second, we investigated the magnitudes of elastic-scattering effects on photoelectron peak intensities by performing a similar series of simulations with elastic scattering switched off in our simulation software. Our ratios of the C-shell 1s intensity to the Au-core 4f7/2 intensity with elastic scattering switched off were qualitatively similar to those obtained by Torelli et al. from a model that neglected elastic scattering. With elastic scattering switched on, the C 1s/Au 4f7/2 intensity ratios generally changed by less than 10 %, thereby justifying the neglect of elastic scattering in XPS models that are applied to organic ligands on Au-core NPs. Nevertheless, elastic-scattering effects on peak-intensity ratios were generally much stronger for C-core/Au-shell, Al-core/Cu-shell, and Cu-core/Al-shell NPs, and there were second-order dependences on core diameter and shell thickness.
Journal of Physical Chemistry C


nanoparticles, shell thicknesses, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy


Powell, C. , Werner, W. , Kalbe, H. , Shard, A. and Castner, D. (2018), Comparisons of Analytical Approaches for Determining Shell Thicknesses of Core-Shell Nanoparticles by X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy, Journal of Physical Chemistry C, [online], (Accessed May 28, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created January 25, 2018, Updated June 2, 2021