Optical properties and electrochemical dealloying of gold-silver alloy nanoparticles immobilized on composite thin-tilm electrodes
Gold-silver alloy nanoparticles (NPs) capped with adenosine 5'-triphosphate were synthesized by borohydride reduction of dilute aqueous metal precursors. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy showed the as-synthesized particles to be spherical with average diameters ~4 nm. Optical properties were measured by UV-Visible spectroscopy (UV-Vis), and the formation of alloy NPs was verified across all gold:silver ratios by a linear shift in the plasmon band maxima against alloy composition. The molar absorptivities of the NPs decreased non-linearly with increasing gold content from 2.0 x 108 M-1 cm-1 (fÉmax = 404 nm) for pure silver to 4.1 x 107 M-1 cm-1 (fÉmax = 511 nm) for pure gold. The NPs were immobilized onto transparent indium-tin oxide composite electrodes using layer-by-layer (LbL) deposition with poly(diallyldimethylammonium) acting as a cationic binder. The UV-Vis absorbance of the LbL film was used to calculate the surface coverage of alloy NPs on the electrode. Typical preparations had average NP surface coverages of 2.8 x 10-13 mol NPs/cm2 (~5% of cubic closest packing) with saturated films reaching ~20% of ccp for single-layer preparations (1.0 ~ 10-12 mol NPs/cm2). X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy confirmed the presence of alloy NPs in the LbL film and showed silver enrichment of the NP surfaces by ~9%. Irreversible oxidative dissolution (dealloying) of the less noble silver atoms from the NPs on LbL electrodes was performed by cyclic voltammetry (CV) in sulfuric acid. Alloy NPs with higher gold content required larger overpotentials for silver dealloying. Dealloying of the more-noble gold atoms from the alloy NPs was also achieved by CV in sodium chloride. The silver was oxidized first to cohesive silver chloride, and then gold dealloyed to soluble HAuCl4- at higher potentials. Silver oxidation was inhibited during the first oxidative scan, but subsequent cycles showed typical, reversible silver-to-silver chloride voltammetry. The potentials for both silver oxidation and gold dealloying also shifted to more oxidizing potentials with increasing gold content, and both processes converged for alloy NPs with >60% gold content. Charge-mediated electrochemistry of silver NPs immobilized in LbL films, using Fc(meOH) as the charge carrier, showed that 67% of the NPs were electrochemically inactive.