Pressure-Induced Optical Transitions in Metal Nanoclusters

Qi Li, Martín A. Mosquera, Leighton O. Jones, Abhinav Parakh, Jinsong Chai, Rongchao Jin, George C. Schatz, X. Wendy Gu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Currently, a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between atomic structures and optical properties of ultrasmall metal nanoclusters with diameters between 1 and 3 nm is lacking. To address this challenge, it is necessary to develop tools for perturbing the atomic structure and modulating the optical properties of metal nanoclusters beyond what can be achieved using synthetic chemistry. Here, we present a systematic high-pressure study on a series of atomically precise ligand-protected metal nanoclusters. A diamond anvil cell is used as a high-pressure chamber to gradually compress the metal nanoclusters, while their optical properties are monitored in situ. Our experimental results show that the photoluminescence (PL) of these nanoclusters is enhanced by up to 2 orders of magnitude at pressures up to 7 GPa. The absorption onset red-shifts with increasing pressure up to ∼12 GPa. Density functional theory calculations reveal that the red-shift arises because of narrowing of the spacing between discrete energy levels of the cluster due to delocalization of the core electrons to the carbon ligands. The pressure-induced PL enhancement is ascribed to (i) the enhancement of the near-band-edge transition strength, (ii) suppression of the nonradiative vibrations, and (iii) hindrance of the excited-state structural distortions. Overall, our results demonstrate that high pressure is an effective tool for modulating the optical properties and improving the luminescence brightness of metal nanoclusters. The insights into structure-property relations obtained here also contribute to the rational design of metal nanoclusters for various optical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11888-11896
Number of pages9
JournalACS nano
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 22 2020


  • diamond anvil cell
  • high pressure
  • luminescence enhancement
  • metal nanocluster
  • optical transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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