Controlled synthesis of gold nanostars by using a zwitterionic surfactant

Alberto Casu, Elisa Cabrini, Alice Donà, Andrea Falqui, Yuri Diaz-Fernandez, Chiara Milanese, Angelo Taglietti, Piersandro Pallavicini*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


By replacing cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) with the zwitterionic lauryl sulfobetaine (LSB) surfactant in the classical seed-growth synthesis, monocrystalline gold nanostars (m-NS) and pentatwinned gold asymmetric nanostars (a-NS) were obtained instead of nanorods. The main product under all synthetic conditions was a-NS, which have branches with high aspect ratios (AR), thus leading to LSPR absorptions in the 750-1150 nm range. The percentage of m-NS versus a-NS, the aspect ratio of the a-NS branches, and consequently the position of their LSPR absorption can be finely tuned simply by regulating the concentration of reductant, the concentration of surfactant, or the concentration of the "catalytic" Ag + cation. The m-NS have instead shorter and larger branches, the AR of which is poorly influenced by synthetic conditions and displays an LSPR positioned around 700 nm. A growth mechanism that involves the direct contact of the sulfate moiety of LSB on the surface of the nano-object is proposed, thereby implying preferential coating of the {111} Au faces with weak interactions. Consistent with this, we also observed the straightforward complete displacement of the LSB surfactant from the surface of the nanostars. This was obtained by the simple addition of thiols in aqueous solution to yield extremely stable coated a-NS and m-NS that are resistant to highly acidic, basic, and in similar to in vivo conditions. Stargazing: Laurylsulfobetaine (LSB), a zwitterionic surfactant, was introduced into the seed-growth approach for the synthesis of gold nano-objects. Nanostars were obtained. The aspect ratio of their branches could be easily tuned by multiple synthetic parameters, which finely regulated the localized surface plasmon resonance absorption in the near-IR region (see figure). Removal of LSB led to stable nanostars under all conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9381-9390
Number of pages10
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number30
StatePublished - Jul 23 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • gold
  • nanostructures
  • seed-growth synthesis
  • surface plasmon resonance
  • zwitterions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Organic Chemistry


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