Facile colloidal coating of polystyrene nanospheres with tunable gold dendritic patches
Patchy particles comprise regions of differing material or chemical functionality on otherwise isotropic cores. To meet the great potential of these anisotropic structures in a wide range of application fields, completely new approaches are sought for the scalable and tunable production of patchy particles, particularly those with nanoscale dimensions. In this paper the synthesis of patchy particles via a simple colloidal route is investigated. Using surfactant-free cationic polystyrene nanospheres as core particles, gold patches are produced through the in situ reduction of chloroauric acid with ascorbic acid. The fact that such nanostructured metal patches can be heterogeneously nucleated on polymer nanospheres is related to the electrostatic interaction between core and metal precursor. Furthermore, the lateral expansion of the gold patches over the polystyrene surface is facilitated by an excess of ascorbic acid. The morphology of the patches is highly dendritic and process-induced variations in the structure are related to gold surface mobility using Monte Carlo simulations based on the diffusion limited aggregation principle. Considering the pH dependent behaviour of ascorbic acid it is possible to predict the moiety which most likely adsorbs to the polymer surface and promotes gold surface diffusion. This enables the judicious adjustment of the pH to also obtain non-dendritic patches. On account of the plasmonic behaviour of gold, the patchy particles have morphology-dependent optical properties. The systematic development of the synthetic approach described here is expected to lay a foundation for the development of functional materials based on the self- or directed-assembly of nanoscale building blocks with anisotropic interactions and properties.