Metal Nanoparticles Prepared in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Solutions


Harry W. Rollins Chemistry Department, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory

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The novel optical, electronic, and/or magnetic properties of metal and semiconductor nanoparticles have resulted in extensive research on new methods for their preparation. An ideal preparation method would allow the particle size, size distribution, crystallinity, and particle shape to be easily controlled, and would be applicable to a wide variety of material systems. Numerous preparation methods have been reported, each with its inherent advantages and disadvantages; however, an ideal method has yet to emerge. The most widely applied methods for nanoparticle preparation include the sonochemical reduction of organometallic reagents, the solvothermal method of Alivisatos, reactions in microemulsions, the polyol method (reduction by alcohols), and the use of polymer and sol–gel materials as hosts.

In addition to these methods, there are a variety of methods that take advantage of the unique properties of a supercritical fluid. Through simple variations of temperature and pressure, the properties of a supercritical fluid can be continuously tuned from gas-like to liquid-like without undergoing a phase change. Nanoparticle preparation methods that utilize supercritical fluids are briefly reviewed below using the following categories: Rapid Expansion of Supercritical Solutions (RESS), Reactive Supercritical Fluid Processing, and Supercritical Fluid Microemulsions. Because of its easily accessible critical temperature and pressure and environmentally benign nature, carbon dioxide is the most widely used supercritical solvent. Supercritical CO2 is unfortunately a poor solvent for many polar or ionic species, which has impeded its use in the preparation of metal and semiconductor nanoparticles. We have developed a reactive supercritical fluid processing method using supercritical carbon dioxide for the preparation of metal and metal sulfide particles and used it to prepare narrowly distributed nanoparticles of silver (Ag) and silver sulfide (Ag2S). The preparation and characterization of these materials and the effects of processing conditions on particle properties is reported.