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J Am Chem Soc. 2005 Mar 2;127(8):2496-504.

Size-dependent dissociation pH of thiolate ligands from cadmium chalcogenide nanocrystals.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701, USA.


A method, pseudo steady-state titration, is introduced for determining the precipitation pH of nanocrystals coated by electron-donating ligands. CdSe nanocrystals coated with hydrophilic deprotonated thiol (thiolate) ligands were studied systematically. For comparison, CdTe and CdS nanocrystals coated with the same types of ligands were also examined. The results show that the precipitation of the nanocrystals is caused by the dissociation of the nanocrystal-ligand coordinating bonds from the nanocrystal surface. The ligands are removed from the surface due to protonation in a relatively low pH range, between 2 and 7 depending on the size, approximately within the quantum confinement size regime, and chemical composition (band gap) of the nanocrystals. In contrast, the redispersion of the nanocrystals was found to be solely determined by the deprotonation of the ligands. The size-dependent dissociation pH of the ligands was tentatively used as a means for determining the size-dependent free energy associated with the formation of a nanocrystal-ligand coordinating bond.

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