The self-assembly of a monolayer of ligands on the surface of noble-metal nanoparticles dictates the fundamental nanoparticle's behavior and its functionality. In this combined computational-experimental study, we analyze the structure, organization, and dynamics of functionalized coating thiols in monolayer-protected gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). We explain how functionalized coating thiols self-organize through a delicate and somehow counterintuitive balance of interactions within the monolayer itself and with the solvent. We further describe how the nature and plasticity of these interactions modulate nanoparticle-based chemosensing. Importantly, we found that self-organization of coating thiols can induce the formation of binding pockets in AuNPs. These transient cavities can accommodate small molecules, mimicking protein-ligand recognition, which could explain the selectivity and sensitivity observed for different organic analytes in NMR chemosensing experiments. Thus, our findings advocate for the rational design of tailored coating groups to form specific recognition binding sites on monolayer-protected AuNPs.
Riccardi, L., Gabrielli, L., Sun, X., De Biasi, F., Rastrelli, F., Mancin, F., & De Vivo, M. (2017). Nanoparticle-Based Receptors Mimic Protein-Ligand Recognition. Chem, 3(1), 92–109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chempr.2017.05.016