Preparation of hydrosol suspensions of elemental and core-shell nanoparticles by co-deposition with water vapour from the gas-phase in ultra-high vacuum conditions

C Binns and P Prieto and S Baker and P Howes and R Dondi and G Burley and L Lari and R Kroger and A Pratt and S Aktas and JK Mellon, JOURNAL OF NANOPARTICLE RESEARCH, 14, 1136 (2012).

DOI: 10.1007/s11051-012-1136-6

We report a new method to produce liquid suspensions of nanoparticles by co-deposition with water vapour from the gas-phase in ultra-high vacuum (UHV) conditions. The water is injected from outside the vacuum as a molecular beam onto a substrate maintained at 77 K and forms an ice layer with a UHV vapour pressure. Molecular dynamics simulations confirm that the nanoparticles are soft-landed close to the surface of the growing ice layer. We show that the un-agglomerated size distribution within the liquid is similar to the gas-phase size distribution and demonstrate that the inclusion of surfactants in the injected water prevents agglomeration. The method allows the flexibility and tight size control available with gas-phase production methods to be applied to making nanoparticle suspensions with any desired properties. This is important for practical applications, especially in medicine. We have extended the method to include core-shell nanoparticles, in which there is flexible control over the core size and shell thickness and free choice of the material in either. Here, we report the production of suspensions of Cu, Ag and Au elemental nanoparticles and Fe@Au and Fe @Fe-oxide core-shell nanoparticles with diameters in the range 5-15 nm. We demonstrate the power of the method in practical applications in the case of Fe@Fe-oxide nanoparticles, which have a specific absorption rate of an applied oscillating magnetic field that is significantly higher than available Fe-oxide nanoparticle suspensions and the highest yet reported. These will thus have a very high-performance in the treatment of tumours by magnetic nanoparticle hyperthermia.

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