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ACS Nano. 2011 Oct 25;5(10):8070-9. doi: 10.1021/nn202645b. Epub 2011 Sep 29.

Measuring agglomerate size distribution and dependence of localized surface plasmon resonance absorbance on gold nanoparticle agglomerate size using analytical ultracentrifugation.

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Material Measurement Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899, United States.


Agglomeration of nanoparticles during measurements in relevant biological and environmental media is a frequent problem in nanomaterial property characterization. The primary problem is typically that any changes to the size distribution can dramatically affect the potential nanotoxicity or other size-determined properties, such as the absorbance signal in a biosensor measurement. Herein we demonstrate analytical ultracentrifugation (AUC) as a powerful method for measuring two critical characteristics of nanoparticle (NP) agglomerates in situ in biological media: the NP agglomerate size distribution, and the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) absorbance spectrum of precise sizes of gold NP agglomerates. To characterize the size distribution, we present a theoretical framework for calculating the hydrodynamic diameter distribution of NP agglomerates from their sedimentation coefficient distribution. We measure sedimentation rates for monomers, dimers, and trimers, as well as for larger agglomerates with up to 600 NPs. The AUC size distributions were found generally to be broader than the size distributions estimated from dynamic light scattering and diffusion-limited colloidal aggregation theory, an alternative bulk measurement method that relies on several assumptions. In addition, the measured sedimentation coefficients can be used in nanotoxicity studies to predict how quickly the agglomerates sediment out of solution under normal gravitational forces, such as in the environment. We also calculate the absorbance spectra for monomer, dimer, trimer, and larger gold NP agglomerates up to 600 NPs, to enable a better understanding of LSPR biosensors. Finally, we validate a new method that uses these spectra to deconvolute the net absorbance spectrum of an unknown bulk sample and approximate the proportions of monomers, dimers, and trimers in a polydisperse sample of small agglomerates, so that every sample does not need to be measured by AUC. These results demonstrate the potential utility of AUC to characterize NP agglomeration and sedimentation for nanotoxicity and biosensor studies, as well as to characterize NP agglomerate size and absorbance to improve LSPR and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy based biosensors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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