Environmentally benign nanomixing by sonication in high-pressure carbon dioxide
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Due to the increased use of nanocomposites, mixing at nanoscale has become important. Current mixing techniques can be classified into: (a) dry mixing (mechanical mixing), (b) wet mixing, and (c) simultaneous production of mixed nanoparticles (when possible). Dry mixing is in general not effective in achieving desired mixing at nanoscale, whereas wet mixing suffers from different disadvantages like nanomaterial of interest should be insoluble, has to wet the liquid, and involves additional steps of filtration and drying. This paper examines the use of pressurized carbon dioxide having high density and low viscosity to replace the liquids (e.g., n-hexane, toluene). Ultrasound is applied to the suspension of nanopowders in gaseous and supercritical carbon dioxide where high impact collisions during sonication help mixing and the final mixture is obtained by simple depressurization. The method is tested for binary mixture of alumina/silica, silica/titania, MWNT (multiwalled carbon nanotubes)/silica, and MWNT/titania. The effects of sonication intensity and pressure on the degree of mixing are studied. Comparative study is also done with liquid n-hexane as a mixing media. Quantitative characterization (e.g., mean composition standard deviation, intensity of segregation) of mixing of alumina/silica and silica/titania is done with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, and that of MWNT/silica and MWNT/titania is done using field-emission scanning electron microscopy and day-light illumination spectrophotometry. Results show that mixing in carbon dioxide at higher ultrasound amplitudes is as good as in liquid n-hexane, and the final mixed product does not contain any residual media as in the case of liquid n-hexane.
KeywordsNanomixing Sonication Nanoparticles Supercritical fluid Carbon dioxide Multiwalled carbon nanotubes Responsible nanotechnology
Authors RND and RBG gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation through NIRT Grant DMI-0506722 as well as a fellowship to JVS from an NSF Grant DMI-0441086. Partial support from EEC-0540855 to RND and AE is also acknowledged.
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