This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Synthesis, Fractionation, and Thin Film Processing of Nanoparticles Using the Tunable Solvent Properties of Carbon Dioxide Gas Expanded Liquids




Anand, Madhu

Type of Degree



Chemical Engineering


Materials built from nanoparticles possess unique chemical, physical, mechanical and optical properties. Due to these properties, they hold potential in application areas such as catalysts, sensors, semiconductors and optics. At the same time, CO2 in the form of supercritical fluid or CO2 gas-expanded liquid (GEL) mixtures has gained significant attention in the area of processing nanostructures. This dissertation focuses on the synthesis and processing of nanoparticles using CO2 tunable solvent systems. Nanoparticle properties depend heavily on their size and thus the ability to finely control the size and uniformity of nanoparticles is of utmost importance. Solution based nanoparticle formation techniques are attractive due to their simplicity, but they often result in the synthesis of particles with a wide size range. To address this limitation, a post-synthesis technique has been developed in this dissertation to fractionate polydisperse nanoparticles (standard deviation = 30%) into monodisperse fractions (standard deviation = 8%) using tunable physicochemical properties of CO2 expanded liquids, where CO2 is employed as an antisolvent. This work demonstrates that by controlling the addition of CO2 (pressurization) to an organic dispersion of nanoparticles, the ligand stabilized nanoparticles can be size selectively precipitated within a novel high pressure apparatus that confines the particle precipitation to a specified location on a surface. Unlike current techniques, this CO2 GEL approach provides faster and more efficient particle size separation, reduction in organic solvent usage, and pressure tunable size selection in a single process. A detailed study has been performed to identify the key parameters enabling size separation of various nanoparticle populations, such as the types of nanoparticles, ligand type and solvent type as well as the use of recursive fractionation and the time allowed for settling during each fractionation step. This size selective precipitation technique was also applied to fractionate and separate polydisperse dispersions of CdSe/ZnS semiconductor nanocrystals into very distinct size and color fractions based solely on the pressure tunable solvent properties of CO2 GELs. This size selective precipitation of nanoparticles is achieved by finely tuning the solvent strength of the CO2/organic solvent medium by simply adjusting the applied CO2 pressure. These subtle changes affect the balance between osmotic repulsive and van der Waals attractive forces thereby allowing fractionation of the nanocrystals into multiple, narrow size populations. Thermodynamic analysis of nanoparticle size selective fractionation was performed to develop a theoretical model based on the thermodynamic properties of GELs. We have used the general phenomenon of nanoparticle precipitation with CO2 GELs to create dodecanethiol stabilized gold nanoparticle thin films. This method utilizes CO2 as an anti-solvent for low defect, wide area gold nanoparticle film formation employing monodisperse gold nanoparticles. Dodecanethiol stabilized gold particles are precipitated from hexane by controllably expanding the solution with carbon dioxide. Subsequent addition of carbon dioxide, as a dense supercritical fluid, then provides for removal of the organic solvent while avoiding the dewetting effects common to evaporating solvents. Unfortunately, most current techniques employed to synthesize and disperse nanoparticles in neat carbon dioxide require the use of environmentally persistent fluorinated compounds as metal precursors and/or stabilizing ligands. This dissertation presents the first report of the simultaneous synthesis and stabilization of metallic nanoparticles in carbon dioxide solvent without the use of any fluorinated compounds thereby further enabling the use of CO2 as a green solvent medium in nanomaterials synthesis and processing.