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Silicon nanoparticles produced by spark discharge

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On the example of silicon, the production of nanoparticles using spark discharge is shown to be feasible for semiconductors. The discharge circuit is modelled as a damped oscillator circuit. This analysis reveals that the electrode resistance should be kept low enough to limit energy loss by Joule heating and to enable effective nanoparticle production. The use of doped electrodes results in a thousand-fold increase in the mass production rate as compared to intrinsic silicon. Pure and oxidised uniformly sized silicon nanoparticles with a primary particle diameter of 3–5 nm are produced. It is shown that the colour of the particles can be used as a good indicator of the oxidation state. If oxygen and water are banned from the spark generation system by (a) gas purification, (b) outgassing and (c) by initially using the particles produced as getters, unoxidised Si particles are obtained. They exhibit pyrophoric behaviour. This continuous nanoparticle preparation method can be combined with other processing techniques, including surface functionalization or the immediate impaction of freshly prepared nanoparticles onto a substrate for applications in the field of batteries, hydrogen storage or sensors.

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The authors thank Dr. Ugo Lafont for the TEM analysis. This research was supported by Agentschap NL (formerly SenterNovem). LCPMdS acknowledges the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) for a VENI grant. AV thanks the Erasmus Student Exchange Programme for a scholarship.

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Correspondence to Andreas Schmidt-Ott.

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Vons, V.A., de Smet, L.C.P.M., Munao, D. et al. Silicon nanoparticles produced by spark discharge. J Nanopart Res 13, 4867 (2011).

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