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Organic Reaction Pathways in the Nonaqueous Synthesis of Metal Oxide Nanoparticles

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Abstract

Nonaqueous-solution routes to metal oxide nanoparticles are a valuable alternative to the known aqueous sol–gel processes, offering advantages such as high crystallinity at low temperatures, robust synthesis parameters and ability to control the crystal growth without the use of surfactants. In the first part of the review we give a detailed overview of the various solution routes to metal oxides in organic solvents, with a strong focus on surfactant-free processes. In most of these synthesis approaches, the organic solvent plays the role of the reactant that provides the oxygen for the metal oxide, controls the crystal growth, influences particle shape, and, in some cases, also determines the assembly behavior. We have a closer look at the following reaction systems in this order: 1) metal halides in alcohols, 2) metal alkoxides, acetates, and acetylacetonates in alcohols, 3) metal alkoxides in ketones, and 4) metal acetylacetonates in benzylamine. All these systems offer some peculiarities with respect to each other, providing many possibilities to control and tailor the particle size and shape, as well as the surface and assembly properties. In the second part we present general mechanistic principles for aqueous and nonaqueous sol–gel processes, followed by the discussion of reaction pathways relevant for nanoparticle formation in organic solvents. Depending on the system several mechanisms have been postulated: 1) alkyl halide elimination, 2) elimination of organic ethers, 3) ester elimination, 4) C[BOND]C bond formation between benzylic alcohols and alkoxides, 5) ketimine and aldol-like condensation reactions, 6) oxidation of metal nanoparticles, and 7) thermal decomposition methods.

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