Effect of thiol molecular structure on the sensitivity of gold nanoparticle-based chemiresistors toward carbonyl compounds

Zhenzhen Xie, Mandapati V. Ramakrishnam Raju, Prasadanie K. Adhihetty, Xiao An Fu, Michael H. Nantz

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Increasing both the sensitivity and selectivity of thiol-functionalized gold nanoparticle chemiresistors remains a challenging issue in the quest to develop real-time gas sensors. The effects of thiol molecular structure on such sensor properties are not well understood. This study investigates the effects of steric as well as electronic effects in a panel of substituted thiol-urea compounds on the sensing properties of thiolate monolayer-protected gold nanoparticle chemiresistors. Three series of urea-substituted thiols with different peripheral end groups were synthesized for the study and used to prepare gold nanoparticle-based chemiresistors. The responses of the prepared sensors to trace volatile analytes were significantly affected by the urea functional motifs. The largest response for sensing acetone among the three series was observed for the thiol-urea sensor featuring a tert-butyl end group. Furthermore, the ligands fitted with N, N’-dialkyl urea moieties exhibit a much larger response to carbonyl analytes than the more acidic urea series containing N-alkoxy-N’-alkyl urea and N, N’-dialkoxy urea groups with the same peripheral end groups. The results show that the peripheral molecular structure of thiolate-coated gold nanoparticles plays a critical role in sensing target analytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7024
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by NIH grant number: P42 ES023716.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Alkoxy urea
  • Bis(alkoxy) urea
  • Carbonyl sensing
  • Molecular selectivity
  • Urea


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