• gold cluster ions;
  • matrix-assisted laser ablation;
  • gold films deposited on SiO2-based photonic crystals;
  • time-of-flight mass spectrometry;
  • nanostructure

A new strategy was explored to generate pure gold cluster ions, Aun+/−, from gold films deposited on solid substrates via a matrix-assisted laser ablation technique. The gold films deposited on SiO2-particle-assembled photonic crystals were demonstrated to be the most ideal compared with the films deposited on various glass slides. Dropped with a matrix of 2-(4-hydroxyphenylazo) benzoic acid and bombarded by nitrogen pulse laser (355 nm), they could release a series of Aun+ with n more than 110 or Aun with n more than 60 according to the data obtained by inline time-of-flight mass spectrometry. The gold-deposited photonic crystal substrates could be stored at room temperature for at least 6 months. The method is hence steady and convenient in use. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.