Non-hydrolytic synthesis and structure of ZrO2 nanoparticles

Abstract : This work deals with the synthesis and the structural characterization of zirconium oxide nanoparticles (ZrO2) as well as their size/structure relationships. We elaborated nanoparticles with a size inferior to 5 nm and a narrow size distribution using a non-hydrolytic solvothermal sol-gel route. Classical X-ray diffraction was used to evaluate the crystallite size via Rietveld refinement and X-ray total scattering to extract the pair distribution functions (PDF) of the samples for structural analysis.We succeeded in synthesizing crystalline nanoparticles of ZrO2 with a size of about 3 nm and quasi mono-dispersed. We showed that an adjusted addition of sodium hydroxide into the reaction mixture was pertinent to obtain a well crystallized and single-phase nanoparticles exhibiting an average monoclinic or tetragonal structure in benzaldehyde or in benzyl alcohol, respectively. Finally, the dilution of benzyl alcohol by anisole, an inert solvent, lead to the fine tuning of average crystallite size of the nanoparticles from 3.2 nm to 2 nm according to the TEM investigation.Those three major samples prepared in alkalinized benzaldehyde, benzyl alcohol, or anisole were subjected to complete structural analysis. According to their PDF analysis, these three samples offer an insight to the understanding of structural properties of such small particles.The experimental PDF of the benzaldehyde-prepared sample coincide with the refined PDF of a monoclinic structural model. However, the experimental PDF of the benzyl alcohol-prepared sample does not conform to any of the known polymorphs of ZrO2 having a fluorite-derived structure but rather it has an average tetragonal structure and a monoclinic distortion at the short-range order. Lastly, the experimental PDF of the anisole-prepared sample has large structural distortion at the medium-range order but has monoclinic structural features at the short-range order. We then subjected the anisole-prepared sample by thermally assisted ageing (3 to 24 days) and addition of varied amounts ex-situ water (0.3 to 5% volume content). We observed that the nanoparticles evolve from a phase containing high disorder (3 days) to a state of higher structural order (24 days) that fits with the average tetragonal structure while maintaining a monoclinic distortion at the short-range order. Similarly, the addition of ex-situ water onto the reaction mixture promoted a faster crystallization and promotes the onset of peaks that aligns with the monoclinic structure. However, the formation of monoclinic phases was inhibited by the presence of sodium hydroxide but limited to about 2% volume water content and higher than this amount lead to the formation of large particles with monoclinic structure.
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Jess Gambe. Non-hydrolytic synthesis and structure of ZrO2 nanoparticles. Materials. Université de Limoges, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017LIMO0011⟩. ⟨tel-02011876⟩

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