Measuring the Grafting Density of Nanoparticles in Solution by Analytical Ultracentrifugation and Total Organic Carbon Analysis
Many of the solution phase properties of nanoparticles, such as their colloidal stability and hydrodynamic diameter, are governed by the number of stabilizing groups bound to the particle surface (i.e., grafting density). Here, we show how two techniques, analytical ultracentrifugation (AUC) and total organic carbon analysis (TOC), can be applied separately to the measurement of this parameter. AUC directly measures the density of nanoparticle–polymer conjugates while TOC provides the total carbon content of its aqueous dispersions. When these techniques are applied to model gold nanoparticles capped with thiolated poly(ethylene glycol), the measured grafting densities across a range of polymer chain lengths, polymer concentrations, and nanoparticle diameters agree to within 20%. Moreover, the measured grafting densities correlate well with the polymer content determined by thermogravimetric analysis of solid conjugate samples. Using these tools, we examine the particle core diameter, polymer chain length, and polymer solution concentration dependence of nanoparticle grafting densities in a gold nanoparticle–poly(ethylene glycol) conjugate system.