The role and fate of capping ligands in colloidally prepared metal nanoparticle catalysts
Metal nanoparticles have received intense scientific attention in the field of catalysis. Precise engineering of nanomaterials’ size, shape and surface composition, including adsorbed capping ligands, is of utmost importance to control activity and selectivity, and distinguish colloidally prepared metal nanoparticle catalysts from traditional heterogeneous catalysts. The interface between the material and the reaction medium is where the key interactions occur; therefore, catalysis occurs under the influence of capping ligands. In this Perspective review, we focus on the choice of capping ligands (or stabilizing agents), and their role and fate in different steps from preparation to catalysis. Evaluating the influence of the ligands on the catalytic response is not trivial, but the literature provides examples where the ligands adsorbed on the nanoparticle surface dramatically change the activity and selectivity for a particular reaction, while acting either as a dynamic shell or a passivation coating. Steric and electronic effects resulting from the presence of adsorbed ligands have been proposed to influence the catalytic properties. Attempts to remove the capping ligands are discussed, even though they are not always successful or even necessary. Finally, we outline our personal understanding and perspectives on the use of ligands or functionalized supports to tune the activity and selectivity of supported metal nanoparticles.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2018 Frontier and Perspective articles