Plasmonic Effects on the Growth of Ag Nanocrystals in Solution.
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The light-stimulated transformation of ensembles of spherical nanoparticles into anisotropic metal nanostructures mediated by localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) excitation is an elegant way of synthesizing triangular silver nanoprisms with extraordinary control over size and shape. Generally, the transformation occurs in oxidizing environments along a pathway that involves the oxidative etching of small preexisting Ag seeds, followed by plasmon-mediated reduction of the resulting Ag ions and Ag0 incorporation into the anisotropic nanocrystals. Here, we investigate pathways toward Ag nanoprisms from initially homogeneous AgNO3 solutions held under reducing conditions. Observations using in situ electron microscopy show that reducing environments and high Ag precursor concentrations in the presence of sodium citrate favor two alternative transformation routes of initial spherical nuclei into anisotropic nanoprisms: (i) the aggregation of spherical nanoparticles and plasmon-mediated conversion of small clusters into triangular prisms; (ii) shape fluctuations of individual small nanoparticles. Simulated field distributions confirm that the coupling of the LSPR excitation between closely spaced nanoparticles causes significant field enhancements near the local plasmonic hot spots, which facilitates accelerated Ag incorporation and thus supports the transformation into nanoprisms.