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Comparison of Aluminium Nanostructures Created by Discharges in Various Dielectric Liquids


Synthesis of aluminium-containing nanoparticles (NPs) by electrical discharges was performed in three dielectric liquids (heptane, liquid nitrogen and water) with aluminium electrodes. The nature of the liquid plays an essential role in the synthesis yield and in the structural properties of NPs. Time-resolved optical emission spectroscopy of selected emission lines emitted during the discharge and its time afterglow was used to observe the chemical changes occurring in the gas phase. It turns out that in heptane and liquid nitrogen, crystalline metallic NPs (from 5 to 10 nm in diameter) are synthesized and oxidized next into amorphous alumina when they are in contact with air, once the liquid is evaporated. In heptane, the transformation of the liquid itself into hydrogenated amorphous carbon creates a kind a matrix in which the aluminium NPs are embedded. Sometimes, a protective graphite shell grows around the NPs and protects them from any further oxidation. In water, these crystalline metallic NPs are synthesized during the first 800 ns of the discharge process, when oxidation is limited by the outward flux of the metallic vapour. They are oxidized next in water. A second type of alumina NPs (several 10 s of nm in diameter) are produced from 800 ns on. They are likely formed from AlO molecules and no longer from aluminium atoms. In every liquid, sub-micrometric particles are also found due to droplet emission from the liquid well created during impacts of spark discharges on electrodes.

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Correspondence to Thierry Belmonte.

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EEL spectra corresponding to the Al-L2,3 edge showing the crystallization process of medium-sized particles made of amorphous alumina particles into γ-alumina under the electron beam. Micrographs of the medium-sized particle studied here before and after irradiance are provided together with their corresponding selected area electron diffraction (SAED) patterns. Synthesis in water. (DOCX 251 kb)

Spectra of the main emission lines observed in discharges in heptane, liquid nitrogen and water. (DOCX 274 kb)


Rotational temperatures of AlO (blue-green system) as a function of time. Insert: comparison between an experimental spectrum and its simulated spectrum. (DOCX 170 kb)

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Hamdan, A., Noël, C., Ghanbaja, J. et al. Comparison of Aluminium Nanostructures Created by Discharges in Various Dielectric Liquids. Plasma Chem Plasma Process 34, 1101–1114 (2014).

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  • Discharge in liquids
  • Aluminium nanoparticles
  • Growth mechanism