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Cost-Effective Approach Developed to Producing Nanoparticles

Posted on: 07/11/2014
Sandia National Laboratories has developed an inexpensive way to synthesize titanium-dioxide nanoparticles and is seeking partners who can demonstrate the process at industrial scale for everything from solar cells to light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Titanium-dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles show great promise as fillers to tune the refractive index of anti-reflective coatings on signs and optical encapsulants for LEDs, solar cells and other optical devices. Optical encapsulants are coverings or coatings, usually made of silicone, that protect a device.

Industry has largely shunned TiO2 nanoparticles because they’ve been difficult and expensive to make, and current methods produce particles that are too large. Sandia’s technique, on the other hand, uses readily available, low-cost materials and results in nanoparticles that are small, roughly uniform in size and don’t clump.

The researchers tried various types of alcohol as an inexpensive solvent to see if they could get a common titanium source, titanium isopropoxide, to react with water and alcohol. They noted that the biggest challenge was figuring out how to control the reaction, since adding water to titanium isopropoxide most often results in a fast reaction that produces large chunks of TiO2, rather than nanoparticles. They persisted until they discovered how to add water very slowly by putting it into a dilute solution of alcohol, ultimately enabling them to synthesize the nanoparticles.

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