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Langmuir. 2012 Dec 21;28(51):17771-7. doi: 10.1021/la3029462. Epub 2012 Dec 11.

Solvothermal synthesis of ultrasmall tungsten oxide nanoparticles.

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Rice University, Houston, Texas 77005, USA.


The synthesis of catalytically useful, ultrasmall oxide nanoparticles (NPs) of group 5 and 6 metals is not readily achievable through reported methods. In this work, we introduce a one-pot, two-precursor synthesis route to <2 nm MO(x) NPs in which a polyoxometalate salt is decomposed thermally in a high-boiling organic solvent oleylamine. The use of ammonium metatungstate resulted in oleylamine-coated, crystalline WO(x) NPs at consistently high yields of 92 ± 5%. The semicrystalline NPs contained 20-36 WO(x) structural units per particle, as determined from aberration-corrected high-resolution scanning transmission electron microscopy, and an organic coating of 16-20 oleylamine molecules, as determined by thermogravimetric analysis. The NPs had a mean size of 1.6 ± 0.3 nm, as estimated from atomic force microscopy and small-angle X-ray scattering measurements. Carrying out the synthesis in the presence of organic oxidant trimethylamine N-oxide led to smaller WO(x) NPs (1.0 ± 0.4 nm), whereas the reductant 1,12-dodecanediol led to WO(x) nanorods (4 ± 1 nm × 20 ± 5 nm). These findings provide a new method to control the size and shape of transition metal oxide NPs, which will be especially useful in catalysis.

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