Journal of Chromatography A, 1216(52), P. 9106-9112 (2009); doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2009.06.037
Synthesis and applications of new functional nanoparticles are topics of increasing interest in many fields of nanotechnology. Chemical modifications of inorganic nanoparticles are often necessary to improve their features as spectroscopic tracers or chemical sensors, and to increase water solubility and biocompatibility for applications in nano-biotechnology. Analysis and characterization of structured nanoparticles are then key steps for their synthesis optimization and final quality control. Many properties of structured nanoparticles are size-dependent. Particle size distribution analysis then provides fundamental analytical information. Asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation (AF4) with multi-angle light scattering (MALS) detection is able to size-separate and to characterize nanosized analytes in dispersion. In this work we focus on the central role of AF4-MALS to analyze and characterize different types of structured nanoparticles that are finding increasing applications in nano-biotechnology and nanomedicine: polymer-coated gold nanoparticles, fluorescent silica nanoparticles, and quantum dots. AF4 not only size-fractionated these nanoparticles and measured their hydrodynamic radius (rh) distribution but it also separated them from the unbound, relatively low-Mr components of the nanoparticle structures which were still present in the sample solution. On-line MALS detection on real-time gave the gyration radius (rg) distribution of the fractionated nanoparticles. Additional information on nanoparticle morphology was then obtained from the rh/rg index. Stability of the nanoparticle dispersions was finally investigated. Aggregation of the fluorescent silica nanoparticles was found to depend on the concentration at which they were dispersed. Partial release of the polymeric coating from water-soluble QDs was found when shear stress was induced by increasing flowrates during fractionation.