Abstract: Byproducts in metal nanoparticle synthesis can interfere with nanomaterial formation and self-assembly, as well as the perceived nanomaterial properties. Such syntheses go through a complicated series of intermediates, making it difficult to predict byproduct chemistry and challenging to determine experimentally. By a combined experimental and theoretical approach, the formation of organic byproducts is mapped out for the synthesis of gold nanoparticles with Good’s buffer 2-(N-morpholino)ethanesulfonic acid. Comprehensive nuclear magnetic resonance studies supported by mass spectrometry, ultraviolet–visible spectroscopy, and density functional theory reveal a number of previously unidentified byproducts formed by oxidation, C–N bond cleavage, and C–C bond formation. A reaction mechanism involving up to four consecutive oxidations is proposed. Oligomeric products with electronic transitions in the visible range are suggested. This approach can be extended broadly and lead to a more informed synthesis design and material characterization.
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