Investigation of the catalysis and SERS properties of flower-like and hierarchical silver microcrystals

Research paper by Jianhui Yang, Beibei Cao, Huiqin Li, Bin Liu

Indexed on: 16 Sep '14Published on: 16 Sep '14Published in: Journal of Nanoparticle Research


Noble metal nano/microstructures have attracted considerable attention because of their unique properties and their various applications. Controlling the shape of noble metal nano/microstructures is a promising strategy to tailor their physical and chemical properties for various applications in fields such as biological labeling and imaging, catalysis, and sensing. Among various specific structures, flower-like and hierarchical silver nano/microstructures have attracted increasing interest because exploration of these novel nano/microstructures with unusual optical properties can provide new perspectives into the rational design of novel materials. It is significantly more challenging to develop facile and effective solution approaches for systematic manipulation of the shape of Ag nano/microstructures. In this article, we revisited the ascorbic acid reduction method to prepare flower-like silver microcrystal with plate petals and hierarchical Ag microcrystal on a large scale and in high purity. Ascorbic acid plays two roles of a reducing agent and a crystal growth regulator. Therefore, the molar ratio of ascorbic acid and silver nitrate is critical to the formation of Ag microcrystal. The controlling of the two different Ag microstructures can be achieved by adjusting the molar ratio of the reactants in aqueous medium at room temperature. The as-prepared Ag microcrystals were characterized by transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and X-ray diffraction. The flower-like Ag microcrystal with plate petals and hierarchical Ag microcrystal with nanoscale sharp tips and gaps could exhibit high catalytic activity and strong surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) activity due to the high surface area and the local electromagnetic field intensity enhancement, respectively. The potential application of the as-prepared Ag microcrystals in catalysis and SERS was investigated, which revealed that these two kinds of Ag microcrystals exhibit high catalytic activities to the NaBH4-catalyzed reduction of 4-nitrophenol and significant SERS effect to 4-aminothiophenol molecular due to their nanoscale sharp tips and gaps. Therefore, the flower-like Ag microcrystal and hierarchical Ag microcrystal investigated here could be promising candidates for single particle catalyst and SERS.