Self-healing gold mirrors and filters at liquid–liquid interfaces†
The optical and morphological properties of lustrous metal self-healing liquid-like nanofilms were systematically studied for different applications (e.g., optical mirrors or filters). These nanofilms were formed by a one-step self-assembly methodology of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) at immiscible water–oil interfaces, previously reported by our group. We investigated a host of experimental variables and herein report their influence on the optical properties of nanofilms: AuNP mean diameter, interfacial AuNP surface coverage, nature of the organic solvent, and nature of the lipophilic organic molecule that caps the AuNPs in the interfacial nanofilm. To probe the interfacial gold nanofilms we used in situ (UV-vis-NIR spectroscopy and optical microscopy) as well as ex situ (SEM and TEM of interfacial gold nanofilms transferred to silicon substrates) techniques. The interfacial AuNP surface coverage strongly influenced the morphology of the interfacial nanofilms, and in turn their maximum reflectance and absorbance. We observed three distinct morphological regimes; (i) smooth 2D monolayers of “floating islands” of AuNPs at low surface coverages, (ii) a mixed 2D/3D regime with the beginnings of 3D nanostructures consisting of small piles of adsorbed AuNPs even under sub-full-monolayer conditions and, finally, (iii) a 3D regime characterised by the 2D full-monolayer being covered in significant piles of adsorbed AuNPs. A maximal value of reflectance reached 58% in comparison with a solid gold mirror, when 38 nm mean diameter AuNPs were used at a water–nitrobenzene interface. Meanwhile, interfacial gold nanofilms prepared with 12 nm mean diameter AuNPs exhibited the highest extinction intensities at ca. 690 nm and absorbance around 90% of the incident light, making them an attractive candidate for filtering applications. Furthermore, the interparticle spacing, and resulting interparticle plasmon coupling derived optical properties, varied significantly on replacing tetrathiafulvalene with neocuproine as the AuNP capping ligand in the nanofilm. These interfacial nanofilms formed with neocuproine and 38 nm mean diameter AuNPs, at monolayer surface coverages and above, were black due to aggregation and broadband absorbance.