A Theoretical and Experimental Examination of Systematic Ligand-Induced Disorder in Au Dendrimer-Encapsulated Nanoparticles
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In this paper we present a new methodology for the analysis of 1-2 nm nanoparticles using extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) spectroscopy. Different numbers of thiols were introduced onto the surfaces of dendrimer-encapsulated Au nanoparticles, consisting of an average of 147 atoms, to systematically tune the nanoparticle disorder. An analogous system was investigated using density functional theory molecular dynamics (DFT-MD) simulations to produce theoretical EXAFS signals that could be directly compared to the experimental results. Validation of the theoretical results by comparing to experiment allows us to infer previously unknown details of structure and dynamics of the nanoparticles. Additionally, the structural information that is learned from theoretical studies can be compared with traditional EXAFS fitting results to identify and rationalize any errors in the experimental fit. This study demonstrates that DFT-MD simulations accurately depict complex experimental systems in which we have control over nanoparticle disorder, and shows the advantages of using a combined experimental/theoretical approach over standard EXAFS fitting methodologies for determining the structural parameters of metallic nanoparticles.