Nanoshells made of a silica core and a gold shell possess an optical response that is sensitive to nanometer-scale variations in shell thickness. The exponential red shift of the plasmon resonance with decreasing shell thickness makes ultrathin nanoshells (less than 10 nm) particularly interesting for broad and tuneable ranges of optical properties. Nanoshells are generally synthesised by coating gold onto seed-covered silica particles, producing continuous shells with a lower limit of 15 nm, due to an inhomogeneous droplet formation on the silica surface during the seed regrowth. In this paper, we investigate the effects of three variations of the synthesis protocol to favour ultrathin nanoshells: seed density, polymer additives and microwave treatment. We first maximised gold seed density around the silica core, but surprisingly its effect is limited. However, we found that the addition of polyvinylpyrrolidone during the shell synthesis leads to higher homogeneity and a thinner shell and that a post-synthetic thermal treatment using microwaves can further smooth the particle surface. This study brings new insights into the synthesis of metallic nanoshells, pushing the limits of ultrathin shell synthesis.
Seeded growth of ultrathin gold nanoshells using polymer additives and microwave radiation
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