Gold nanoparticles decorated with oligo(ethylene glycol) thiols: kinetics of colloid aggregation driven by depletion forces

Fajun Zhang, Donald G. Dressen, Maximilian W. A. Skoda, Robert M. J. Jacobs, Stefan Zorn, Richard A. Martin, Christopher M. Martin, Graham F. Clark, Frank Schreiber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have studied the kinetics of the phase-separation process of mixtures of colloid and protein in solutions by real-time UV-vis spectroscopy. Complementary small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) was employed to determine the structures involved. The colloids used are gold nanoparticles functionalized with protein resistant oligo(ethylene glycol) (OEG) thiol, HS(CH(2))(11)(OCH(2)CH(2))(6)OMe (EG6OMe). After mixing with protein solution above a critical concentration, c*, SAXS measurements show that a scattering maximum appears after a short induction time at q = 0.0322 angstrom(-1) stop, which increases its intensity with time but the peak position does not change with time, protein concentration and salt addition. The peak corresponds to the distance of the nearest neighbor in the aggregates. The upturn of scattering intensities in the low q-range developed with time indicating the formation of aggregates. No Bragg peaks corresponding to the formation of colloidal crystallites could be observed before the clusters dropped out from the solution. The growth kinetics of aggregates is followed in detail by real-time UV-vis spectroscopy, using the flocculation parameter defined as the integral of the absorption in the range of 600-800 nm wavelengths. At low salt addition (<0.5 M), a kinetic crossover from reaction-limited cluster aggregation (RLCA) to diffusion-limited cluster aggregation (DLCA) growth model is observed, and interpreted as being due to the effective repulsive interaction barrier between colloids within the depletion potential. Above 0.5 M NaCl, the surface charge of proteins is screened significantly, and the repulsive potential barrier disappeared, thus the growth kinetics can be described by a DLCA model only.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-561
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Biophysics Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2008
EventProteins At Work 2007 - Perugia (IT), Italy
Duration: 28 May 200730 May 2007


  • gold nanoparticle
  • self-assembled monolayer
  • protein resistance
  • SAXS
  • UV–vis spectroscopy


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