Noncovalent Control of the Electrostatic Potential of Quantum Dots through the Formation of Interfacial Ion Pairs

Chen He, Trung D. Nguyen, Kedy Edme, Monica Olvera De La Cruz, Emily A. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes the role of tetraalkylammonium counterions [NR4+, R = -CH3, -CH2CH3, -(CH2)2CH3, or -(CH2)3CH3] in gating the electrostatic potential at the interface between the 6-mercaptohexanoate (MHA) ligand shell of a PbS quantum dot (QD) and water. The permeability of this ligand shell to a negatively charged anthraquinone derivative (AQ), measured from the yield of electron transfer (eT) from the QD core to AQ, increases as the steric bulk of NR4+ increases (for a given concentration of NR4+). This result indicates that bulkier counterions screen repulsive interactions at the ligand/solvent interface more effectively than smaller counterions. Free energy scaling analysis and molecular dynamics simulations suggest that ion pairing between the ligand shell of the QD and NR4+ results from a combination of electrostatic and van der Waals components, and that the van der Waals interaction promotes ion pairing with longer-chain counterions and more effective screening. This work provides molecular-level details that dictate a nanoparticle's electrostatic potential and demonstrates the sensitivity of the yield of photoinduced charge transfer between a QD and a molecular probe to even low-affinity binding events at the QD/solvent interface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10126-10132
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - Jul 26 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Noncovalent Control of the Electrostatic Potential of Quantum Dots through the Formation of Interfacial Ion Pairs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this