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In the functionalization of gold nanoparticles (GNPs) through the sulfur-metal bond, this article (among others) states that $\ce{NaCl}$ is slowly added in the GNPs solution after addition of thiol compound.

What is the role of $\ce{NaCl}$ in the functionalization step?

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$\ce{NaCl}$ acts as a charge suppressor so that the negatively charged gold nanoparticle and a negatively charged ligand (with thiol) are not longer charge repelled and can experience a chemical bond. $\ce{NaCl}$ is easily broken into $\ce{Na+}$ and $\ce{Cl-}$ so that the $\ce{Na+}$ can pacify the negative charge on the surface of the gold nanoparticle to become less negative and approach zero charge. Other higher charged salts such as $\ce{Mg^2+}$ impart even greater pacification.

Here are some good references:

  • J Liu, Y Lu. Preparation of aptamer-linked gold nanoparticle purple aggregates for colorimetric sensing of analytes. Nature protocols, 2006. nature.com

  • B Du, Z Li, Y Cheng. Homogeneous immunoassay based on aggregation of antibody-functionalized gold nanoparticles coupled with light scattering detection. Talanta, 2008. Elsevier. From this last ref:

in $\pu{10 mM}$ phosphate-buffered solution (pH 7.0) containing $\pu{1.0 mmol L−1} ~\ce{NaCl}$ at room …

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