Advances in Nanoparticles, 2013, 2, 217-222 Published Online August 2013 (
Colloidal Synthesis of Silver Nanoprisms in Aqueous
Medium: Influence of Chemical Compounds in UV/Vis
Absorption Spectra
Josivandro N. Silva1,2*, Jamil Saade1,2, Patricia M. A. Farias1,2, Eduardo Henrique Lago Falcão2
1Research Group on Nanostructures and Biological Interfaces (NIB), Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), Recife, Brazil
2Graduate Program on Materials Science (PGMTR), Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), Recife, Brazil
Email: *
Received May 25, 2013; revised June 25, 2013; accepted July 3, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Josivandro N. Silva et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution Li-
cense, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
In this work we explore the influence of the factors that affect the formation of silver nanoprisms (AgNPs) with distinct
size and size distribution as well as the most intense absorption peak shift. Box-Behnken design analysis was applied to
optimize the production of silver nanoprism via colloidal synthesis. The analysis of the responses was based on the
nanoprisms plasmon peak wavelength related to in-plane dipole (tunable band) at λmax. 420 nm. The obtained results
indicate that Silver ion is the main variable for the tuning of the size and the Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance
(LSPR) frequency. By using the Box-Behnken design it was possible to synthesize nanoparticles with a predictable size
and to establish a rigorous control of the plasmon frequency at the range of 600 up to 800 nm.
Keywords: Silver Nanoprisms; Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance; Box-Behnken Design
1. Introduction
Practical and easy methodologies that enable the control
of size and shape of metallic nanoparticles are quite of
useful in nanotechnology, since several optical and elec-
tronic properties are strongly correlated to these charac-
teristics [1]. In particular, silver nanoprisms (AgNPs)
present very singular features related to the Localized
Surface Plasmon Resonance (LSPR) effect, such as the
intense bands that can be easily tunable and a significant
contribution to the enhancement of the emissive process
Nowadays, silver nanoprisms have mostly been pre-
pared by chemical methods or by assisted methods. Both
methods depend on the control of some variables such as:
metal precursor, stabilizers and reducing agents present
in solution (reaction medium). Chemical methods use
stabilizers (e.g. sodium citrate, SCT) and oxidizing
agents (e.g. hydrogen peroxide, H2O2) to produce oxida-
tive etching at the reaction medium. This occurs when a
ligand and O2 are present. This combination may result
in a powerful oxidation for both nuclei and seeds [3]. In
such case, the seeds at the resulting colloid present sig-
nificant surface defects. These clusters will evolve to
hexagonal or triangular plates [4]. Assisted methods use
an external energy source like visible or ultraviolet light
to reduce silver ions (Ag+), do not make use of oxidizing
agents and lead silver ions to grow in an anisotropic way,
giving rise to the silver nanoparticles. Assisted methods
tend to be more time consuming than chemical methods
[5]. Both methods produce tipped and well formed AgNPs
using low Ag+ concentrations such as 0.1 mmol·L1 [4-6].
Assisted methods produce AgNPs that absorb between
500 - 1400 nm [5]. Chemical methods have produced
AgNPs with tunable peak around of 800 nm [6,7]. Na-
noparticles with large absorption wavelength (around
1000 nm) could be used, for instance, to coat optical fibers,
reducing losses and thus improving signal quality [5].
As far as we know, there is a lack both of systematic
studies on the synthesis parameters that enable the con-
trol of the nanoparticles’ dimensions and of investiga-
tions about the contribution of each component over the
size dispersion of the resulting particles of colloidal sys-
tem. In this work the effect of the interaction between the
components Ag+, H2O2, SCT and NaBH4 on the forma-
tion of colloidal AgNPs via chemical reduction method is
investigated. We also discuss the role of the oxidizing
*Corresponding author.
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agent H2O2 on the formation of stacking faults of the
seed colloids, without which the anisotropy required for
the rise of prismatic nanoparticles does not occur. The
Box-Behnken [8] method for the Design of Experiments
(DOE) was used absorption spectrum of the AgNPs which
present three LSPR bands at distinct wavelengths.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Materials
All reactants (analytical grade) were purchased from Al-
drich. Silver nitrate (AgNO3, 99%) was used as metal-
lic precursor. Tribasic sodium citrate (Na3C6H5O7, 99%)
was used as stabilizing agent. Sodium borohidrate (98%)
was used as reducing agent and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2,
30 wt%) was used as oxidizing agent. Milli-Q deionized
water (conductivity about 18 M) was used to prepare
the aqueous solution.
2.2. Synthesis of Silver Nanoprisms
The colloidal synthesis method proposed by Shi and co-
workers [6] was modified in order to achieve control
over the absorption wavelength of the colloidal AgNPs.
Typically, 30 mL of Milli-Q deionized water and 1.5 mL
of sodium citrate (SCT) 30 mmol·L1 were added into a
100 mL beaker under vigorous stirring. The amounts of
the chemicals reagents added were modified as follows:
AgNO3 level 30 mmol·L1 (30 and 70 μL), H2O2 30% (40
and 60 μL) and NaBH4 100 mmol·L1 (150 and 200 μL).
2.3. Box-Behnken Design
Response Surface Methodology (RSM) was employed
for experimental design, data analysis and model build-
ing, as well as the software packages Design Expert and
Statistica 8. A Box–Behnken design with three variables
was used to establish the model [8]: AgNO3 level (x1),
H2O2 (x2) and NaBH4 (x3), with three levels for each
variable. The dependent variable was the main band with
variable wavelength. Symbols and levels are shown in
Table 1. Five replicates at the central point of the de-
signed model were used to estimate the pure error sum of
2.4. Analysis
All colloids obtained by Box-Behnken design were
characterized by UV-Vis Spectroscopy (Ocean Optics
USB4000-UV-VIS spectrophotometer). The morphology
of the samples was analyzed by Transmission Electronic
Microscopy (TEM, FEI Morgagni 268D operating at 100
kV). The samples were diluted in aqueous medium and
dropped into a carbon grid. The images were analyzed
with the software Image-Pro Plus 6, in order to quantify
particle size and size distribution.
Table 1. Box-Behnken design and the response wavelength
for AgNO3 formation.
Levels Numeric Coded Response
Experiments x1x2x3 x1 x2 x3 λ (nm)
1 3040175 0 67,612
2 7040175 + 0 48,491
3 3060175 + 0 66,205
4 7060175 + + 0 52,488
5 3050150 0 95,151
6 7050150 + 0 47,627
7 3050200 0 + 80,056
8 7050200 + 0 + 52,436
9 5040150 0 56,232
10 5060150 0 + 64,334
11 5040200 0 + 58,821
12 5060200 0 + + 60,938
13 5050175 0 0 0 58,097
14 5050175 0 0 0 58,899
15 5050175 0 0 0 60,113
16 5050175 0 0 0 59,010
17 5050175 0 0 0 59,512
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. H2O2 and the Formation of Ag Nanoprisms
Formation of the AgNPs strongly depends on the chemi-
cal characteristics of the stabilizer and oxidizing agent
(functional groups, strength of the oxidant agent, etc.).
On the synthesis reported in this work, SCT was used as
stabilizer. Other polymers containing OH groups also can
be used, producing the same effect as SCT [9]. However,
the presence of either the oxidant or stabilizer is not
enough to form the AgNPs. In order to ensure AgNP
formation, a mixing of these two components is needed.
They must be both present at the solution, to promote the
formation of an oxidative etching into the solution [3,4].
To ensure AgNP formation, both components must be
present, so that an oxidative etching is promoted. In the
work reported here, the H2O2 concentration was kept
between 0.4% and 0.6% (V/V), although concentrations
as high as 1% still produced AgNPs. Higher concentra-
tions of the oxidant generally resulted in spherical parti-
cles, rather than the desired nanoprisms. The solution
with acid pH looses color, indicating the particles’ dem-
ineralization. UV-Vis spectra confirms that the absence
of H2O2 also results in the formation of spherical parti-
cles instead of nanoprisms. Mixing H2O2 to SCT favors
the appearance of stacking faults in the seed colloid
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ANP
J. N. SILVA ET AL. 219
through an oxidative process early on, prior to the addi-
tion of NaBH4. The equations below illustrate the reac-
tions that H2O2 undergoes on the silver cluster surface
(Figure 1).
The peroxide anion (HOO) is quite unstable and eas-
ily decomposes into the hydroxyl radical (HO), which is
highly reactive and acts as a very strong oxidizing agent.
In addition to the Box-Behnken design, other experi-
ments varying the H2O2 concentration were performed. It
was observed that for volumes higher than 60 μL, pH
value increases to beyond 8.5 and the newly formed
AgNPs dissolve rapidly. This occurs because prismatic
particles can have specific facets, such as {111}, more
exposed than other morphologies (such as spheres and
rods). Thus, under such conditions, prismatic nanoparti-
cles are much more reactive towards the oxygen present
in solution than other particle shapes [4,10]. This was
observed during the experiments we’ve performed, and
preferentially occurs at sites that present a small curva-
ture radius (sharp edges and corners) [11]. Furthermore,
other studies have also provided evidence that polycrys-
talline AgNPs will dissolve more quickly than single-
crystalline AgNPs [3,11,12]. The proposed explanation
for this behavior is that polycrystalline particles contain
high-energy defects at grain boundaries, which provide
active sites for oxidation and dissolution [13].
3.2. Spectroscopic and Morphologic
Characteristics of Silver Nanoprisms
In a typical UV-Vis spectrum of AgNPs, three absorp-
tion peaks can be found (Figure 2). The weak, narrow
peak at 330 nm is assigned to out of plane dipole that
corresponds to oscillations of the metal surface electrons
along the nanoparticle thickness. There are two more
bands with low intensities (400 - 550 nm) that are as-
signed to in plane quadrupole. The most intense peak is
assigned to in plane dipole and its maximum is very sen-
sitive to synthesis parameters, ranging between 500 to
950 nm.
All UV-Vis spectra present three peaks, but only sam-
ples 1, 5, 7, 8, 9 correspond to well formed AgNPs. Fig-
ure 3 shows representative TEM images of four colloid
samples (5, 7, 8 and 9) exhibiting different size distribu-
tions with edges and tips well formed.
According to UV-Vis spectra (Figure 2), the AgNPs
formed present distinct size, since the position of the
main band is related to the area of the formed particles. A
linear correlation was observed for size distribution/po-
Figure 1. Mechanism of interaction of hydrogen peroxide
with the surface of the silver nanoparticles.
Figure 2. Normalized UV-Vis spectra for five samples from
Box-Behnken design. Experiments curves 7, 8 and 9 were
multiplied by a factor 1.2.
Figure 3. TEM images for experiments 5, 7, 8 and 9 realized
on Box-Behnken Design.
sition of main peak maximum for experiments 5, 7, 8 and
9, whose values were 58 ± 10.15 nm, 73 ± 15 nm, 96 ±
21 nm and 225 ± 44.63 nm, respectively. Spherical and
nanoplate particles of different sizes were also observed.
This indicates that the silver ions, in the concentrations
used in these experiments, did not convert all silver seed
colloid into AgNPs. Hence, it was necessary to carry out
distinct centrifugation steps in order to separate the dif-
ferent particle sizes present in the solution.
3.3. Effect of AgNO3, H2O2, and NaBH4
Concentrations on AgNP Formation
The three-dimensional response surface plots shown in
Figures 4-6 evidence the effects of AgNO3, H2O2, and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ANP
Figure 4. Response surface plot showing the effects of Ag+
level and H2O2 on the formation of AgNPs. NaBH4 re-
mained constant at 150 μL.
Figure 5. Response surface plot showing the effects of
NaBH4 level and H2O2 on the formation of AgNPs. Ag+ re-
mained constant at 30 μL.
NaBH4 levels, and their interactions on the formation of
AgNPs. From the results obtained, it was observed that
each factor played an apparent role in the preparation of
AgNPs. As shown in Figure 4 the maximum shift of the
tunable band of AgNPs increased gradually when the
H2O2 level is kept between 40 - 60 μL, with a low level
of Ag+. When the Ag+ level and H2O2 were kept constant
within the range under investigation, the shift module of
the tunable band of the AgNPs formed increased exhib-
iting a dependence with the NaBH4 volume added (Fig-
ures 4 and 5).
3.4. Model Fitting and Optimization
The mathematical model representing the principal wave-
Figure 6. Response surface plot showing the effects of Ag+
level and NaBH4 on the formation of AgNPs. H2O2 re-
mained constant at 40 μL.
lenght shift for AgNPs as a function of the independent
variables in the region under investigation was expressed
by the following equation:
13 231
591.26 134.9816.0113.51
49.76 14.9641.55
45.82 55.37
where y represents the shift of principal wavelength, and
x1, x2 and x3 are the coded variables for AgNO3, H2O2
and NaBH4 levels, respectively.
Exploration and optimization of a fitted model may
produce misleading results unless the model exhibits a
good fitting. Thus, checking the model adequacy is es-
sential. The model P-value of the AgNPs synthesis was
0.0137 (Table 2), indicating that the model fitting was
significant. However, the “lack of fit” value was 0.0002
which means that this term was significant.
The coefficient (R2) of determination is another im-
portant index for the measurement of the fitting degree.
The small value of R2 indicates the poor relevance of the
dependent variables in the model. The model can be well
fitted with the actual data when R2 is near the unity. By
analysis of variance, the R2 value of the model was de-
termined to be 0.8855, showing that the regression model
emulated well the true behavior of the system.
According to this model three points with predicted
wavelength were chosen to test the obtained results (Ta-
ble 3).
Nanoparticles with LSPR bands into the visible region
can be quite suitable to enhance the quantum efficiency
of luminescent materials such as dyes and Quantum dots
[14]. The plasmon bands of the metal particles can en-
hance the density of the electromagnetic field near their
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Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ANP
Table 2. Model fit analysis for the AgNPs synthesis.
Source Degree of freedom Sum of squares Mean square F-value P-value
Model 9 189,000 21005.32 6.01 0.0137
Residual 7 24447.83 3492.55
Lack of fit 3 24223.13 8074.38 143.74 0.0002
Pure error 4 224.70 56.17
Total 16 213,500
Table 3. Theoretical and experimental data for three ex-
periment realized to obtain silver nanoprisms at predicted
wavelengh values.
Run x1 (μL) x 2 (μL) x 3 (μL) λtheo. (nm) λexp. (nm)
1 50 55 192 600 ± 65.88 615 ± 31
2 35 56 200 700 ± 75.70 788 ± 25
3 35 50 153 800 ± 70.13 752 ± 42
neighbors, contributing to the enhancement of the local
excitation of these luminescent structures. These kinds of
materials are largely used for biological applications,
such as tissue and cells markers for diagnosis and other
studies [14].
4. Conclusion
Box-Behnken based experiments showed that it is possi-
ble to prepare silver nanoprisms with tunable wavelength.
This indicated a distinct size distribution for each sample
of silver nanoprisms synthesized. The interactions among
all chemical components (x1, x2, and x3) used in the ex-
periments were meaningful according to Table 2, however,
the x1 factor was the most important one. Statistic analy-
sis ANOVA of the model was significant and indicated a
good fitness with the data obtained. In order with fit of
model were chosen three points with wavelength pre-
dicted values. All results presented a good approximation
with predicted values.
5. Acknowledgements
This work was supported by Brazilian agencies CNPq
and CAPES, as well as INFo (Instituto de Fotônica). The
authors are grateful to CETENE for the use of Transmis-
sion Electronic Microscope.
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