Synthesis of ZnO nanoparticles by flame spray pyrolysis and characterisation protocol
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There is uncertainty concerning the potential toxicity of zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles, which may be attributed in part to a lack of understanding with regard to the physiochemical properties of the nanoparticles used in toxicological investigations. This paper reports the synthesis of a ZnO nanopowder by flame spray pyrolysis and demonstrates that the typically employed characterisation techniques such as specific surface area measurement and X-ray diffraction provide insufficient information on the sample, especially if it is intended for use in toxicity studies. Instead, a more elaborate characterisation protocol is proposed that includes particle morphology as well as detailed compositional analysis of the nanoparticle surface. Detailed transmission electron microscopy analysis illustrated the polydispersity within the sample: particles were elongated in the c-crystallographic direction, with average Ferret length ~23 nm and Ferret width ~14 nm. Dynamic light scattering (0.1 w/v% in deionised water, pH 7.4) revealed the particles were agglomerated with a modal secondary particle size of ~1.5 μm. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy indicated the presence of carbonate and hydroxide impurities on the surface of the ZnO nanoparticles and an increase of such impurities was observed as the sample was aged, which might influence the nanoparticle dissolution and/or cellular uptake behaviour. These data will be utilised, in order to facilitate the interpretation and understanding of results from toxicological investigations using in vitro cell lines.
KeywordsDynamic Light Scattering Zinc Oxide Zincite Flame Spray Pyrolysis Zinc Nitrate Solution
Research leading to these results received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 229244 (ENNSATOX). K. Wegner gratefully acknowledges financial support by the European Research Council (ERC project “FlameNanoManufacture”, contract #247283).
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