Impact of crystal structure of silica nanoparticles on Rhodamine 6G adsorption: a molecular dynamics study

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Understanding the mechanism of adsorption of Rhodamine 6G (R6G) to various crystal structures of silica nanoparticles (SNPs) is important to elucidate the impact of dye size when measuring the size of the dye-SNP complex via the time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy method. In this work, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were used to get an insight into the R6G adsorption process, which cannot be observed using experimental methods. It was found that at low pH, α-Cristobalite structured SNPs have a strong affinity to R6G; however, at high pH, more surface silanol groups undergo ionization when compared with α-Quartz, preventing the adsorption. Therefore, α-Quartz structured SNPs are more suitable for R6G adsorption at high pH than the α-Cristobalite ones. Furthermore, it was found that stable adsorption can occur only when the R6G xanthene core is oriented flat with respect to the SNP surface, indicating that the dye size does not contribute significantly to the measured size of the dye-SNP complex. The requirement of correct dipole moment orientation indicates that only one R6G molecule can adsorb on any sized SNP, and the R6G layer formation on SNP is not possible. Moreover, the dimerization process of R6G and its competition with the adsorption has been explored. It has been shown that the highest stable R6G aggregate is a dimer, and in this form, R6G does not adsorb to SNPs. Finally, using steered molecular dynamics (SMD) with constant-velocity pulling, the binding energies of R6G dimers and R6G complexes with both α-Quartz and α-Cristobalite SNPs of 40 Å diameter were estimated. These confirm that R6G adsorption is most stable on 40 Å α-Quartz at pH 7, although dimerization is equally possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4123–4136
Number of pages14
JournalACS Omega
Issue number3
Early online date9 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2024


  • SNP
  • R6G
  • MD
  • adsorption
  • dimerization
  • silica
  • nanoparticles


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