Changes within the stabilizing layer of ZnO nanoparticles upon washing


ZnO nanoparticles (NPs) are highly relevant for various industrial applications, however, after synthesis of the NPs residual chemicals need to be removed from the colloidal raw product by washing, as they may influence the performance of the final device. In the present study we focus on the effect of washing by antisolvent flocculation with subsequent redispersion of the NPs on the stabilizing acetate shell. Purification of the ZnO nanoparticles is reported to be optimal with respect to zeta potential that has a maximum after one washing cycle. In this work, we will shed light on this observation using small angle X-ray and neutron scattering (SAXS, SANS) by demonstrating that after the first washing cycle the content of acetate in the ligand shell around the ZnO NPs increases. In detail, it was observed that the diffuse acetate shell shrinks to the size of a monolayer upon washing but the acetate content of this monolayer is higher than within the diffuse shell of the particles of the native dispersion. A second washing cycle reduces the acetate concentration within the stabilizing shell and the stability of the dispersion drops accordingly. After another (third) washing cycle strong agglomeration was observed for all investigated samples.
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