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Ligand-Induced Fate of Embryonic Species in the Shape-Controlled Synthesis of Rhodium Nanoparticles



Adam J. Biacchi, Raymond E. Schaak


The shapes of noble metal nanoparticles directly impact their properties and applications, including in catalysis and plasmonics, and it is therefore important to understand how multiple distinct morphologies can be controllably synthesized. Solution routes offer powerful capabilities for shape-controlled nanoparticle synthesis, but the earliest stages of the reaction are difficult to interrogate experimentally and much remains unknown about how metal nanoparticle morphologies emerge and evolve. Here, we use a well-established polyol process to synthesize uniform rhodium nanoparticle cubes, icosahedra, and triangular plates using bromide, trifluoroacetate, and chloride ligands, respectively. In all of these systems, we identified rhodium clusters with diameters of 1–2 nm that form early in the reactions. The colloidally stable metal cluster intermediates served as a stock solution of embryonic species that could be transformed predictably into each type of nanoparticle morphology. The anionic ligands that were added to the embryonic species determined their eventual fate, e.g., the morphologies into which they would ultimately evolve. Extensive high-resolution transmission electron microscopy experiments revealed that the growth pathway–monomer addition, coalescence, or a combination of the two–was different for each of the morphologies, and was likely controlled by the interactions of each specific anionic adsorbate with the embryonic species. Similar phenomena were observed for related palladium and platinum nanoparticle systems. These studies provide important insights into how noble metal nanoparticles nucleate, the pathways by which they grow into several distinct morphologies, and the imperative role of the anonic ligand in controlling which route predominates in a particular system.
ACS Nano


noble metal nanoparticles, nanoparticle synthesis, shape-controlled nanoparticles, nanoparticle formation, nanoparticle growth, transmission electron microscopy


Biacchi, A. and Schaak, R. (2015), Ligand-Induced Fate of Embryonic Species in the Shape-Controlled Synthesis of Rhodium Nanoparticles, ACS Nano, [online], (Accessed March 3, 2024)
Created January 28, 2015, Updated November 10, 2018