27 Jun 2013

A Schaaking development of colloidal hybrid nanoparticles

Literature Discussion

Submitted by Anne Bentley, Lewis & Clark College

This literature discussion was created at the NSF-TUES sponsored workshop at Penn State, June 2013.  It is based on the article from Ray Schaak’s group (Buck, Matthew R.; Bondi, James F.; Schaak, Raymond E. “A total-synthesis framework for the construction of high-order colloidal hybrid nanoparticles” Nature Chemistry, 2012 4, 37-44, DOI: 10.1038/NCHEM.1195), which Ray presented at the workshop.

The article draws an analogy between traditional organic synthetic strategies and hybrid nanoparticle synthesis.  It is a good introduction to experimental design, nanoparticle synthesis, and common solid state characterization techniques.

File LitLOSchaak1.docx39.24 KB
Learning Goals: 

After reading and discussing the paper, the student should be able to:

  • Draw a reaction scheme of the nanoparticle synthesis, describe the oxidation states of key reactants, and explain the role of oleylamine
  • Apply theory and concepts (HSAB, intermolecular forces, etc.) to explain aspects of the synthesis
  • Describe and contrast the kind of information provided by each characterization technique used, with a detailed examination of XPS and XRD data
  • Articulate the broader significance of the total-synthesis approach for colloidal nanoparticle


Implementation Notes: 

There are a variety of ways that the literature discussion can be carried out.  Students should be given the article along with the guiding questions ahead of time to prepare for class.  Instructors can choose a smaller selection of the provided questions for a shorter discussion, or divide sets of questions among groups of students.  To show the students the impact of the paper, the class could look up how many times the article has been cited.  (For example, the article was cited 37 times in the first 18 months after publication.)

Evaluation Results: 

None of us has piloted this literature discussion yet, but we promise to post results as we do.

Creative Commons License: 
Creative Commons Licence


I adapted five of the questions from this LO for the final exam in my nanomaterials chemistry course in the fall of 2013.  The half-credit course has a year of general chemistry as a prerequisite with organic strongly suggested.  Of the seventeen students in the course, 14 were chemistry majors, 2 were biochemistry majors, and one was a physics major. 

I gave the students the article a week before the exam and told them that half of the exam would be problems drawn from the article.  The students had been reading journal articles throughout the course.  I allowed students to bring their copy of the article to use during the exam, but suggested that they should put in some time beforehand in reading the article.  I encouraged them to stop by my office with any questions before the exam, though only one student did this.  I’ll summarize the problems I used and the student results:

Problem 3 – I provided the structure of oleylamine and then asked the second two questions.  The average score on this question was 4.5 out of 7.  I was surprised that they didn’t do better, but we did study nanoparticle synthesis very early in the course. 

Problem 6 – The average score was 5/6, so not bad.

Problem 7 – The average score was 11 out of 14.  I dropped selected area electron diffraction (SAED) off the chart, because we had not discussed it in the course.  I gave two points for each of the five rows in the chart, and generally subtracted a half point at a time for missing checks or checks in the wrong places.  I was fairly generous in grading the chart – for example, I thought UV-vis could be included in the answer to “…an element’s chemical environment”, but I didn’t take off points if it wasn’t included.   The second part of the question was worth 4 points, and all but one of the students got full credit.  Overall, the average score for this question was 11 out of 14.

Problem 8 – I changed part (b) of this question by giving them four diagrams showing four different sets of planes and asked them to provide the Miller indices.  I answered one as an example and defined the a, b, and c axes for them. The average score on this problem was 15.5 out of 19.

Problem 9 – I used this one as is, and all students got full credit.

Overall, the students’ average score on this half of the exam was 40 out of 50.  It was a fun exam to write and grade, and I think it was a good experience for the students.

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