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Open Access Nano Express

Non-solvolytic synthesis of aqueous soluble TiO2 nanoparticles and real-time dynamic measurements of the nanoparticle formation

Lan Chen13*, Kamil Rahme2, Justin D Holmes3, Michael A Morris3 and Nigel KH Slater1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Cambridge, Pembroke Street, Cambridge, CB2 3RA, UK

2 Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences, Department of Sciences, Notre Dame University (NDU), Louaize, Zouk Mosbeh, Lebanon

3 Materials Section and Supercritical Centre, Department of Chemistry, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

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Citation and License

Nanoscale Research Letters 2012, 7:297  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-7-297

Published: 7 June 2012


Highly aqueously dispersible (soluble) TiO2 nanoparticles are usually synthesized by a solution-based sol–gel (solvolysis/condensation) process, and no direct precipitation of titania has been reported. This paper proposes a new approach to synthesize stable TiO2 nanoparticles by a non-solvolytic method - direct liquid phase precipitation at room temperature. Ligand-capped TiO2 nanoparticles are more readily solubilized compared to uncapped TiO2 nanoparticles, and these capped materials show distinct optical absorbance/emission behaviors. The influence of ligands, way of reactant feeding, and post-treatment on the shape, size, crystalline structure, and surface chemistry of the TiO2 nanoparticles has been thoroughly investigated by the combined use of X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, UV-visible (UV–vis) spectroscopy, and photoluminescence (PL). It is found that all above variables have significant effects on the size, shape, and dispersivity of the final TiO2 nanoparticles. For the first time, real-time UV–vis spectroscopy and PL are used to dynamically detect the formation and growth of TiO2 nanoparticles in solution. These real-time measurements show that the precipitation process begins to nucleate after an initial inhibition period of about 1 h, thereafter a particle growth occurs and reaches the maximum point after 2 h. The synthesis reaction is essentially completed after 4 h.

Synthesis; Nanoparticles; TiO2; Aqueously soluble; Direct liquid phase precipitation; Dynamic real-time measurement