Plasmonic core–shell ionic microgels for photo-tuning catalytic applications†
Development of a breathing support with superior binding affinity for the facile immobilization of Au nanoparticles (Au NPs) for remotely controlled chemical reactions is of immense scientific interest in catalytic applications. Herein, a straightforward and fast electrostatic self-assembly of Au NPs onto near-infrared (NIR) light-responsive plasmonic core–shell thermosensitive ionic microgels, which are based on gold nanorods (Au NRs) coated with microgel shells of ionic liquids, has been constructed. These self-assembled nanocomposites exhibit high catalytic activity and controllability as compared to other Au-based catalysts reported in literature for the reduction of 4-nitrophenol. In the entire catalytic process, the NIR laser acts as a motor to drive the plasmonic core–shell ionic microgels for breathing and thereby tunes the progress of the catalytic reaction. Our results may provide a novel strategy, which is completely different from other traditional modes, to regulate the catalytic activity. The realization of this breathing modulation method induced by a remotely controlled way may create possibilities for the design of functional nanomaterials that can serve as intelligent catalysts with excellent catalytic activity.