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Pathways for the formation of gold thiolate complexes from gold(III) chloride precursors AuCl4 and AuCl3 are examined. This work demonstrates that two distinct reaction pathways are possible; which pathway is accessible in a given reaction may depend on factors such as the residue group R on the incoming thiol. Density functional theory calculations using the BP86 functional and a polarized triple-ζ basis set show that the pathway resulting in gold(III) reduction is favored for R = methyl. A two-to-one ratio of thiol or thiolate to gold can reduce Au(III) to Au(I), and a three-to-one ratio can lead to polymeric Au(SR) species, which was first suggested by Schaaff et al. J. Phys. Chem. B, 1997, 101, 7885 and later confirmed by Goulet and Lennox J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2010, 132, 9582. Most transition states in the pathways examined here have reasonable barrier heights around 0.3 eV; we find two barrier heights that differ substantially from this which suggest the potential for kinetic control in the first step of thiolate-protected gold nanoparticle growth.


Barngrover, Brian M., and Christine M. Aikens. "The Golden Pathway to Thiolate-Stabilized Nanoparticles: Following the Formation of Gold (I) Thiolate from Gold (III) Chloride." Journal of the American Chemical Society 134, no. 30 (2012): 12590-12595.

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