Atomically Resolved Characterization of Optically Driven Ligand Reconfiguration on Nanoparticle Catalyst Surfaces

Mary O. Olagunju, Yang Liu, Anatoly I. Frenkel, Marc R. Knecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dynamic ligand layers on nanoparticle surfaces could prove to be critically important to enhance the functionality of individual materials. Such capabilities could complement the properties of the inorganic component to provide multifunctionality or the ability to be remotely actuated. Peptide-based ligands have demonstrated the ability to be remotely responsive to structural changes when adsorbed to nanoparticle surfaces via incorporation of photoswitches into their molecular structure. In this contribution, direct spectroscopic evidence of the remote actuation of a photoswitchable peptide adsorbed onto Au nanoparticles is demonstrated using X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopic methods. From this analysis, Au-X (X = C or N) coordination numbers confirm the changes before and after photoswitching in the surface ligand conformation, which was correlated directly to variations in the catalytic application of the materials for nitrophenol reduction processes. In addition, the catalytic application of the materials was demonstrated to be significantly sensitive to the structure of the nitrophenol substrate used in the reaction, suggesting that changes in the reactivity are likely based upon the peptide conformation and substrate structure. Such results confirm that surface ligands can be remotely reconfigured on nanoparticle surfaces, providing pathways to apply such capabilities to a variety of applications beyond catalysis ranging from drug delivery to sensing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44302-44311
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 22 2021


  • Au nanoparticles
  • XAFS
  • catalysis
  • nitrophenol reduction
  • peptides
  • photoswitch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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