Nanotechnology is blossoming into one of the premiere technologies of this century, but the key to its progress lies in developing more efficient nanosynthesis methods. Variations in synthetic technique, however, can cause variations in size, structure, and surface characteristics, thereby altering the physical properties and functionality of the particles. Careful structural characterizations are thus essential for understanding the properties and appropriate applications for particles produced by new synthetic techniques.In this work, a new ‘solvent-deficient’ method is presented for the synthesis of an unprecedentedly wide range of metal oxide nanomaterials including at least one metal oxide from each group in Groups 3-4, 6-15, and the Lanthanides. XRD, BET, and TEM structural characterizations as well as chemical purity analyses of the products are given. The intermediates associated with the method are also investigated, allowing the reaction parameters to be rationalized and culminating in a proposed mechanism for the reaction. Several of the reaction intermediates are themselves useful products, expanding the range of this already versatile method. Optimized synthesis parameters as well as structural characterizations are presented for one such intermediate product, the iron oxyhydroxide called ferrihydrite.The Al2O3 nanoparticles produced by the new method show promise in catalyst support applications, and the synthesis and structural analysis (XRD, X-ray PDF, 27Al NMR, TG/DTA-MS) of these nanoparticles is provided. The XRD, PDF, and NMR analyses reveal that the initial boehmite-like phase transforms to the catalytically useful gamma-Al2O3 phase at unusually low temperatures (300-400°C), but boehmite-like local structure defects remain which heal slowly with increasing temperature up to 800°C. The ‘pure’ gamma-Al2O3 may still contain randomized, non-cubic, local structure distortions, and it transforms directly to alpha-Al2O3 at ~1050°C. To rationalize the local structure and the absence of the delta- and theta-Al2O3 phases during the alpha-phase transition, relationships between the many Al2O3 phases are presented via innovative symmetry-mode analyses, revealing a potential quazi-topotactic mechanism for the gamma-to-alpha transition.To stabilize the gamma-Al2O3 phase to higher temperatures for catalyst applications, 3 wt% of a lanthanum dopant was added via a new, 1-pot process based on the new solvent-deficient method. This process is described and X-ray PDF, TEM, 27Al NMR, and EXAFS analyses of the La-doped gamma-Al2O3 nanoparticles reveal that the dopant resides as isolated, adsorbed atoms on the gamma-Al2O3 surface. The first coordination shell of the isolated La is increasingly La2O3-like as calcination temperature increases but changes drastically to be more LaAlO3-like after the alpha-phase transition, which is delayed ~100°C by the La dopant. Combining the EXAFS, PDF, NMR, and symmetry-mode analyses, we provide new insight into the mechanism of stabilization provided by the La dopant.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



Date Submitted


Document Type





metal oxide nanoparticles, synthesis, solvent-deficient method, ferrihydrite, gamma-Al2O3, nanoparticles, PDF, EXAFS, La-doped gamma-Al2O3 nanoparticles