Ligand exchange on Au38(SR)24: substituent site effects of aromatic thiols†
Understanding the critical roles of ligands (e.g. thiolates, SR) in the formation of metal nanoclusters of specific sizes has long been an intriguing task since the report of ligand exchange-induced transformation of Au38(SR)24 into Au36(SR′)24. Herein, we conduct a systematic study of ligand exchange on Au38(SC2H4Ph)24 with 21 incoming thiols and reveal that the size/structure preference is dependent on the substituent site. Specifically, ortho-substituted benzenethiols preserve the structure of Au38(SR)24, while para- or non-substituted benzenethiols cause its transformation into Au36(SR)24. Strong electron-donating or -withdrawing groups do not make a difference, but they will inhibit full ligand exchange. Moreover, the crystal structure of Au38(SR)24 (SR = 2,4-dimethylbenzenethiolate) exhibits distinctive π⋯π stacking and “anagostic” interactions (indicated by substantially short Au⋯H distances). Theoretical calculations reveal the increased energies of frontier orbitals for aromatic ligand-protected Au38, indicating decreased electronic stability. However, this adverse effect could be compensated for by the Au⋯H–C interactions, which improve the geometric stability when ortho-substituted benzenethiols are used. Overall, this work reveals the substituent site effects based on the Au38 model, and highlights the long-neglected “anagostic” interactions on the surface of Au-SR NCs which improve the structural stability.