Real-Time in situ Observations Reveal a Double Role for Ascorbic Acid in the Anisotropic Growth of Silver on Gold

Rational nanoparticle design is one of the main goals of materials science, but it can only be achieved via a thorough understanding of the growth process and of the respective roles of the molecular species involved. We demonstrate that a combination of complementary techniques can yield novel information with respect to their individual contributions. We monitored the growth of long aspect ratio silver rods from gold pentatwinned seeds by three in situ techniques (small-angle x-ray scattering, optical absorbance spectroscopy and liquid-cell transmission electron microscopy). Exploiting the difference in reaction speed between the bulk synthesis and the nanoparticle formation in the TEM cell, we show that the anisotropic growth is thermodynamically controlled (rather than kinetically) and that ascorbic acid, widely used for its mild reductive properties plays a shape-directing role, by stabilizing the {100} facets of the silver cubic lattice, in synergy with the halide ions. This approach can easily be applied to a wide variety of synthesis strategies.