Microwave-assisted Synthesis of Silver Nanoparticles

The synthesis procedure shown here was adapted by Troy Dassler from Angshuman Pal, Sunil Shah, and Surekha Devi, "Microwave-assisted synthesis of silver nanoparticles using ethanol as a reducing agent", Materials Chemistry and Physics, 114(2-3), 530-532 (15 April 2009).

Silver nanoparticles are made by a chemical reduction of a silver salt in the presence of a stabilizing agent. Their formation can be observed by a change in color since small nanoparticles of silver are yellow. In this synthesis ethanol excited by microwaves is the reducing agent,

CH3CH2OH + 2Ag+ → CH3CHO + 2 H+ + Ag0,

polyvinylpyrrolidone prevents aggregation, and rapid microwave heating and agitation gives nanoparticles.


Wear eye protection

Add 10 mL of 1.0% polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) in 100% ethanol to a small Erlenmeyer flask. Add 200 µL 0.10 M AgNO3.

Cover loosely.

Place the flask in the center of the microwave oven. Microwave for 5 seconds at 100% power. It may work better to set the microwave timer for a longer period and then stop the microwave after 5 seconds. The solution should be quite hot. (If not, try a different position in the oven.)

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Wait several minutes to see if the solution turns yellow. The color will continue to darken with time.
Record the visible absorbance spectrum. What is the peak wavelength? What is the peak width at half the maximum height? You may need to measure the width of the longer wavelength half and then double the value to get the full width.

The presence of metal nanoparticles can be detected by their interaction with a beam of light since the oscillating electric field causes quantized light emission from the particles. Can you see a laser beam as it passes through the solution? The light from a laser pointer may be polarized with the electric field oscillation in only in one plane. Is your laser pointer polarized? If so the plasmon emission would occur only in one plane. Shine the laser through the solution and rotate the laser. What fraction of a full rotation separates the maximum and minimum observed brightness?

Optional: The solution can be used to test the antibacterial properties of silver nanoparticles.


Developed in collaboration with the
University of Wisconsin Materials Research Science and Engineering Center
Interdisciplinary Education Group   |   MRSEC on Nanostructured Interfaces
This page created by George Lisensky, Beloit College.  Last modified February 12, 2017 .