Electron microscopy of gold nanoparticles at atomic resolution

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Science  22 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6199, pp. 909-912
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251959

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Detailed structure of a gold nanoparticle

Adding only a few atoms or changing the capping ligand can dramatically change the structure of individual metal nanoparticles. Azubel et al. used aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy to derive a three-dimensional reconstruction of water-soluble gold nanoparticles. Small-angle x-ray scattering and other techniques have also corroborated this model. They used this to determine the atomic structure, which compared favorably with density functional theory calculations, without assuming any a priori structural knowledge or the use of model fitting.

Science, this issue p. 909


Structure determination of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) is necessary for understanding their physical and chemical properties, but only one AuNP larger than 1 nanometer in diameter [a 102–gold atom NP (Au102NP)] has been solved to atomic resolution. Whereas the Au102NP structure was determined by x-ray crystallography, other large AuNPs have proved refractory to this approach. Here, we report the structure determination of a Au68NP at atomic resolution by aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy, performed with the use of a minimal electron dose, an approach that should prove applicable to metal NPs in general. The structure of the Au68NP was supported by small-angle x-ray scattering and by comparison of observed infrared absorption spectra with calculations by density functional theory.

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