Generation of nanoparticles by spark discharge

  • N. S. Tabrizi
  • M. Ullmann
  • V. A. Vons
  • U. Lafont
  • A. Schmidt-OttEmail author
Research Paper


The production of nanoparticles by microsecond spark discharge evaporation in inert gas is studied systematically applying transmission electron microscopy, mobility analysis and BET surface area measurement. The method of spark discharge is of special interest, because it is continuous, clean, extremely flexible with respect to material, and scale-up is possible. The particle size distributions are narrow and the mean primary particle size can be controlled via the energy per spark. Separated, unagglomerated particles, 3–12 nm in size, or agglomerates can be obtained depending on the flow rate. The nanoparticulate mass produced is typically 5 g/kWh. A formula is given, which estimates the mass production rate via thermal conductivity, evaporation enthalpy and the boiling point of the material used. We showed that with gas purified at the spot, the method produced gold particles that were so clean that sintering of agglomerated particles occurred at room temperature. The influence of a number of parameters on the primary particle size and mass production rate was studied and qualitatively understood with a model of Lehtinen and Zachariah (J Aerosol Sci 33:357–368, 2002). Surprisingly high charging probabilities for one polarity were obtained. Spark generation is therefore of special interest for producing monodisperse aerosols or particles of uniform size via electrical mobility analysis. Qualitative observations in the present study include the phenomenon of material exchange between the electrodes by the spark, which opens the possibility of producing arbitrary mixtures of materials on a nanoscale. If spark generation of nanoparticles is performed in a standing or almost standing gas, an aerogel of a web-like structure forms between surfaces of different electrical potential.


Nanoparticles Spark discharge Synthesis Aerosols 



The authors would like to express their gratitude to Miren Echave Elustondo for carrying out particle size distribution measurements and Sander Brouwer for his assistance in BET measurements. The Project is partially funded by the Delft Center of Sustainable Energy (DISE).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. S. Tabrizi
    • 1
  • M. Ullmann
    • 1
  • V. A. Vons
    • 1
  • U. Lafont
    • 2
  • A. Schmidt-Ott
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Nanostructured Materials, Faculty of Applied SciencesDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.DelftChemTechNational centre for HREMDelftThe Netherlands

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