Tailoring the luminescence of atomic clusters via ligand exchange reaction mediated post synthetic modification†
The growing prominence of atomic nanoclusters in fields of practical relevance has made modulation of their luminescent characteristics an important challenge for their future applications. Herein we report chemical reaction assisted modulation of luminescence of histidine stabilized gold nanoclusters via a ligand exchange reaction with cysteine. Upon addition of 3.8 mM cysteine, as evinced by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy in conjunction with transmission electron microscopic analyses, histidine molecules were found to desorb from the surface of the Au NCs leading to the latter's aggregation into macroscopic units. Consequently, the luminescence of the His Au NCs underwent a large bathochromic shift from 475 nm to 500 nm with a concomitant decrease in the luminescence intensity. Thereafter, upon addition of 18 mM cysteine to a dispersion of His Au NCs, cysteine molecules by virtue of strong aurophilic interactions were found to adsorb on to the surface of the Au NCs, leading to the disaggregation of the macroscopic structures. This was accompanied by restoration of the luminescence features of the Au NCs to an emission maximum of 486 nm with partial recovery of the luminescence intensity. Thus, the work embodied herein demonstrates post-synthetic chemical reactions of nanoclusters as an effective and viable tool for tailoring the photoluminescence of atomic clusters to meet application demands.