Measuring the refractive index and sub-nanometre surface functionalisation of nanoparticles in suspension†
Direct measurements to determine the degree of surface coverage of nanoparticles by functional moieties are rare, with current strategies requiring a high level of expertise and expensive equipment. Here, a practical method to determine the ratio of the volume of the functionalisation layer to the particle volume based on measuring the refractive index of nanoparticles in suspension is proposed. As a proof of concept, this technique is applied to poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) nanoparticles and semicrystalline carbon dots functionalised with different surface moieties, yielding refractive indices that are commensurate to those from previous literature and Mie theory. In doing so, it is demonstrated that this technique is able to optically detect differences in surface functionalisation or composition of nanometre-sized particles. This non-destructive and rapid method is well-suited for in situ industrial particle characterisation and biological applications.