Titanium dioxide nanoreactor

Feb 21, 2013
The nanoparticles crystallize in a polymer network at room temperature. Credit: HZB

Tiny particles of titanium dioxide are found as key ingredients in wall paints, sunscreens, and toothpaste; they act as reflectors of light or as abrasives. However with decreasing particle size and a corresponding change in their surface-to-volume ratio, their properties change so that crystalline titanium dioxide nanoparticles acquire catalytic ability: Activated by the UV component in sunlight, they break down toxins or catalyze other relevant reactions.

Now, Dr. Katja Henzler and a team of chemists at the Helmholtz Centre Berlin have developed a synthesis to produce nanoparticles at room temperature in a . Their analysis, conducted at BESSY II, Berlin's , has revealed the crystalline structure of the nanoparticles. This represents a major step forward in the usage of polymeric nanoreactors since, until recently, the nanoparticles had to be thoroughly heated to get them to crystallize. The last synthesis step can be spared due to the special environment inside the PNIPAM network.

The Henzler team's polymeric nanoreactors consist of a polystyrene core surrounded by a network of PNIPAM chains. A titanium compound was added to an ethanolic solution of the polymer colloids, which did trigger the formation of small particles within the PNIPAM network. The BESSY II experiments showed that the chemists were able to control the speed of these processes while at the same time affecting the quality of the that had formed.

Using the novel combination of x-ray microscopy and spectroscopy (NEXAFS-TXM, U41-SGM) at BESSY II, Henzler and the microscopy team were able to show that the nanoparticles are homogeneously distributed over the polymeric nanoreactors. The researchers examined their samples in a cryogenic aqueous environment, which prevents artifact formation due to sample drying. Their analysis showed that the nanoparticles have a crystalline structure. "The nanocrystals have a tetragonal anatase structure and this crystalline structure is a key to their catalytic performance. Additionally, our new analytic method allows us to control the quality of the synthesized particles so that we can optimize them for relevant applications," says Katja Henzler.

Explore further: Demystifying nanocrystal solar cells

More information: Nano Letters, 2013, 13 (2), pp 824–828; DOI: 10.1021/nl3046798

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Are silver nanoparticles harmful?

Mar 14, 2012

Silver nanoparticles cause more damage to testicular cells than titanium dioxide nanoparticles, according to a recent study by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. However, the use of both types may affect testicular ...

Recommended for you

DNA nanoswitches reveal how life's molecules connect

Jan 30, 2015

A complex interplay of molecular components governs almost all aspects of biological sciences - healthy organism development, disease progression, and drug efficacy are all dependent on the way life's molecules ...

Holes in valence bands of nanodiamonds discovered

Jan 28, 2015

Nanodiamonds are tiny crystals only a few nanometers in size. While they possess the crystalline structure of diamonds, their properties diverge considerably from those of their big brothers, because their ...

Demystifying nanocrystal solar cells

Jan 28, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a comprehensive model to explain how electrons flow inside new types of solar cells made of tiny crystals. The model allows for a better understanding of such cells and may ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.