Stability of Polyethylene Glycol-Coated Copper Nanoparticles and Their Optical Properties

by Okyere, D.; Manso, R. H.; Tong, X.; Chen, J. Y.

Oxidation is a corrosion reaction where the corroded metal forms an oxide. Prevention of oxidation at the nanoscale is critically important to retain the physicochemical properties of metal nanoparticles. In this work, we studied the stability of polyethylene glycol (PEG) coated copper nanoparticles (PEGylated CuNPs) against oxidation. The freshly-prepared PEGylated CuNPs mainly consist of metallic Cu which are quite stable in air although their surfaces are typically covered with a few monolayers of cuprous oxide. However, they are quickly oxidized in water due to the presence of protons that facilitate oxidation of the cuprous oxide to cupric oxide. PEG with carboxylic acid terminus could slightly delay the oxidation process compared to that with thiol terminus. It was found that a solvent with reducing power such as ethanol could greatly enhance the stability of PEGylated CuNPs by preventing further oxidation of the cuprous oxide to cupric oxide and thus retain the optical properties of CuNPs. The reducing environment also assists the galvanic replacement of these PEGylated CuNPs to form hollow nanoshells; however, they consist of ultra-small particle assemblies due to the co-reduction of gold precursor during the replacement reaction. As a result, these nanoshells do not exhibit strong optical properties in the near-infrared region. This study highlights the importance of solvent effects on PEGylated nonprecious metal nanoparticles against oxidation corrosion and its applications in preserving physicochemical properties of metallic nanostructures.