Disruptive burning of precursor/solvent droplets in flame-spray synthesis of nanoparticles



Flame spray pyrolysis is an established technique for synthesizing nanoparticles in the gas phase through aerosol combustion of precursor/solvent droplets. The combustion characteristics of isolated micron-sized precursor/solvent droplets are investigated experimentally. Pure solvent droplets burn uniformly and classically quasisteady, whereas precursor/solvent droplets manifest disruptive combustion behavior. The fast onset of droplet disruption, which occurs only for solutions with dissolved metal precursors, is not due to solid-particle precipitation within the droplet. Instead, the mechanism of disruptive droplet burning is similar to that of slurry droplets, consisting of three main steps: (1) diffusion-controlled burning of the high-volatile solvent, (2) viscous-shell formation due to decomposition of the low-volatile metal precursor, and (3) subsequent disruption due to heterogeneous nucleation. The time sequence of the three steps depends on the concentration and decomposition characteristics of the metal precursor, shortening with increased concentration and higher incremental decomposition temperature. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 59: 4553–4566, 2013