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Surface chemistry can become pronounced in determining the optical properties of colloidal metal nanoparticles as the nanoparticles become so small (diameters <20 nm) that the surface atoms, which can undergo chemical interactions with the environment, represent a significant fraction of the total number of atoms although this effect is often ignored. For instance, formation of chemical bonds between surface atoms of small metal nanoparticles and capping molecules that help stabilize the nanoparticles can reduce the density of conduction band electrons in the surface layer of metal atoms. This reduced electron density consequently influences the frequency-dependent dielectric constant of the metal atoms in the surface layer and, for sufficiently high surface to volume ratios, the overall surface plasmon resonance (SPR) absorption spectrum. The important role of surface chemistry is highlighted here by carefully analyzing the classical Mie theory and a multi-layer model is presented to produce more accurate predictions by considering the chemically reduced density of conduction band electrons in the outer shell of metal atoms in nanoparticles. Calculated absorption spectra of small Agnanoparticles quantitatively agree with the experimental results for our monodispersed Agnanoparticles synthesized via a well-defined chemical reduction process, revealing an exceptional size-dependence of absorption peak positions: the peaks first blue-shift followed by a turnover and a dramatic red-shift as the particle size decreases. A comprehensive understanding of the relationship between surface chemistry and optical properties is beneficial to exploit new applications of small colloidal metal nanoparticles, such as colorimetric sensing, electrochromic devices, and surface enhanced spectroscopies.
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Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics
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