Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

First Advisor

Dr. Massimo Bertino


Gold Nanoclusters are of particular interest due to their many possible applications across a wide range of scientific fields. More specifically, nano-sized gold particles have potential to be used in drug delivery systems, cancer therapy and catalysis. This dissertation focuses on improving our understanding of ligated gold nanoclusters by examining the role of a variety of phosphine based ligands, novel methods to produce monodisperse solutions, and investigating the kinetics of water soluble ligated gold nanoclusters.

The addition of ligands to solutions of Au have shown to produce small (< 20 Au atoms) clusters. All nanocluster solutions were prepared in a similar manner. Typically, a gold salt, either Chloro(triphenylphosphine) gold(I) (Au(PPh3)Cl), or Potassium gold (III) chloride (KAuCl4), were dissolved in various solvents. Next, an equal concentration of ligand was added to the solution and stirred until completely dissolved. Finally, all were reduced with 5X the concentration of borane-tert-butylamine (BTBC) after which were sonicated for ~20 minutes. The timing and method of adding the ligands and reducing agent varied depending on the solution and solubility of the ligands.

Primarily we used Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry (ESI-MS) and Ultraviolet – Visible Spectroscopy (UV-VIS) for the characterization of samples, however, occasionally Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) and X-Ray Photoemission Spectroscopy (XPS) were used. The most recent research took advantage of the size selective nature of an alpha hemolysin (a-HL) nanopore to investigate the kinetics of thiol-ligated Au clusters ~2 nm in size.

The relationship between ligand rigidity and solvent polarity and the size and dispersity of Au cluster suspensions was investigated. We observed the formation of stable monodisperse clusters with the shortest ligand, (L3), independent of solvent. With a longer flexible ligand, (L6), we observed primarily Au8-10 cores depending on the ratio of L6/PPh3. All other ligands yielded polydisperse distributions. These dispersions contained clusters with a nuclearity between 8 and 11, for example [Au10(PPh3)9]3+ in LBn and [Au8(PPh3)7]2+ in LBp, were observed in the initial stages, but they were not stable and precipitated out or plated the glass vial. We also observed that the polarity of the solvent did not play a significant role in the formation of MPC’s, however a correlation between the size of the solvent and MPC formation was observed.

The growth and evolution of two unique gold structures was also observed via UV-Vis and ESI-MS. Solutions were prepared which contained Potassium gold (III) chloride and PPh2(CH2)3PPh2, i.e., 1,3-bis(diphenylphosphino)propane, denoted by L3, reduced with Borane tert-butylamine complex (BTBC) in a 1:1 diethyl ether:methanol mix, which yielded a stable [Au11(L3)5]+3. Starting with this known Au11 solution, the addition of Mn2+ has shown to lead to the formation of a stable diphosphine ligated Au8 and a new Au14 species.

Additionally, we show that the co-reduction of NiCl2 and Au in the absence of the ligand (L3) does give us a simple method for the production of a monodisperse [Au9(PPh3)8]2+ cluster solution and via electroless deposition does give us a potential low temperature pathway to the formation of a AuNi nanoalloy particle.


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Available for download on Monday, July 31, 2023