Functional nanoparticles and films made in the gas-phase

functional nanoparticles

Sunday, June 15, 2014, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Gaylord National Convention Center, Washington, DC


We start with the fascinating history of aerosol technology for material synthesis: from ink production in ancient China and Greece, to Bible printing by Gutemberg in Mainz and to today’s manufacture of optical fibers, carbon blacks, filamentary nickel, pigments and fumed silica through, however, valiant Edisonian research. Opportunities for aerosol synthesis of novel functional materials are highlighted.  So an overview of flame, plasma laser and hot-wall reactors for synthesis of metal, alloys, ceramics and composites is given.  Fundamental physico-chemical phenomena that control these processes are presented along with engineering design principles combining fluid and particle dynamics.  

Emphasis is placed on scalable flame reactors that dominate, both by value and volume, today’s manufacture of nanostructured materials.  In particular, it is highlighted the versatile flame spray pyrolysis process for synthesis of metal/ceramic particles for heterogeneous catalysts (TiO2/V2O5, Pt/Al2O3, TiO2/SiO2), sensors and biomaterials.  Scale-up will be discussed showing how design correlations are developed with reactors of various sizes along with principles for synthesis of aggregates and agglomerates. Gas-phase coating with oxide or carbon films will be discussed. Case studies of novel products will be highlighted focusing of heterogeneous catalysts and gas sensors. If there is interest, aerosol synthesis of dental materials and food fortificants can be discussed. 

Technology Focus

A scalable, dry technology for synthesis of high purity nanoparticles with closely controlled characteristics is presented.  This is advantageous over classic wet chemistry technologies (sol-gel or precipitation) as it does not use their multiple processing steps (e.g. washing, drying, calcination etc.) and high volumes of liquid byproducts. In addition, particle collection is easier from gas than liquid streams, high purity products (e.g. optical fibers) with unique morphology (e.g. fumed silica) and phase composition can be made in the gas-phase  Today industry uses dry technology for manufacture of carbon blacks and simple oxides after several years of evolutionary research.  As a result, it is practically impossible to use these units for synthesis of functional inorganic (mixed ceramic or metal-ceramic) nanoparticles without going through the same costly and time-consuming cycle as shareholders have no patience or stomach for it.

Recent major breakthroughs in understanding aerosol processes have placed dry synthesis of nanoparticles on a firm scientific basis allowing now production of these materials in appreciable volumes (e.g. 1 kg/h even at university labs) creating renewed interest in dry processes and products.  The focus now shifts to product performance rather than mere particle characteristics through close interaction of particle specialists with end users.  Special emphasis is placed on the degree of particle agglomeration and its control, as well as on nanoparticle morphology and even layered particle composition.


This course will introduce aerosol process technology and show its accessibility and potential for manufacture of functional nanoparticles.  It will go through its history to show how it survived the “death valley” of scale-up from laboratory to manufacturing for selected products.  The most important theories will be presented along with tangible examples so one can use them for a specific product with systematic reasoning and use of the pertinent literature.  Diverse examples will be given through analyzing and discussing a number of old and new products and processes using dry technologies in a relaxed atmosphere and through motivating lectures intermingled with question-answers.

Course Contents

1. Overview and History (1h)

Nanoparticles: Origins, Significance and Applications.  The evolution of industry for manufacture of carbon blacks, fumed silica, pigmentary titania, ZnO, filamentary nickel, optical fibers and, most recently, for metallic and ceramic nanoparticles.  Flame, plasma, laser and hot-wall reactors.

2. Fundamentals (as a reference only)

Definitions and Particle size Distribution. Brownian Motion and Particle Diffusion. Thermophoretic Sampling and Particle Characterization. Aerosol Coagulation in the Continuum and Free-Molecular Regimes, Self-Preserving Distributions, Agglomeration, Fractal-like Particles.  Critical, Kelvin or minimum Particle Size, Condensation and Nucleation.

3. Controlled flame synthesis of nanoparticles (1h):

Tutorial demonstration of seven reactor parameters that control particle characteristics.

4. Reactor Design and Scale-up (1h):

Multiscale Design by Molecular Dynamics, Mesoscale simulations and Computational Fluid & Particle Dynamics. Controlled synthesis of Aggregates and Agglomerates.  Scale-up correlations for nanoparticle synthesis from 1 g/h to 1 kg/h.

5. Gas-phase Coating of Nanoparticles (1h):

Synthesis of Ag, TiO2 , Fe2O3, LiFePO4 nanoparticles and sequential coating by nanothin silica or carbon films. Experimental data and reactor design by computational fluid and particle dynamics. Evaluation of catalytic, photocatalytic, magnetic and antibacterial performance.

6. Heterogeneous Catalysts & Photocatalysts (1h):

DeNOx by selective catalytic reduction (V2O5/TiO2), polymer synthesis (TiO2/SiO2) and chiral pharmaceuticals (Pt/Al2O3) manufacture, Nitrogen Storage Reduction for DeNOx by Pt/Ba/Al2O3 made in twin flame reactors. UV & Visible Light Photocatalysis.

7. Films & Gas Sensors (1h):

Flame synthesis of sensing particles (TiO2 & Pt/SnO2) for CO/organics and their direct deposition into highly porous films. Cross-sensitivity to humidity. Selective WO3 sensors for acetone to monitor diabetics by breath analysis. Anti-fogging, superhydrophylic films

Who Should Attend

The course is aimed for chemists and physicists and engineers (chemical -mechanical) in research and development of processes involving fine particles for batteries, phosphors, films, catalysts, polishing, medical, dental materials, pigments, optical fibers, precious metals (Au, Pt), nanosilver, sunscreens, cosmetics, fuel cells, solar energy storage.

Course Instructor

Sotiris PratsinisSotiris E. Pratsinis is Professor Process Engineering, Adjunct Professor of Materials Science and Director of the Particle Technology Laboratory ( at ETH Zurich, Switzerland (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).  His research focuses on aerosol processing of materials with applications in catalysts, ceramics, sensors, batteries, bio and nutritional materials.  His program has been funded by the U.S. and Swiss National Science Foundations as well as by DuPont, Dow, Nestle, Toyota, Clariant, Buhler etc.  Prior to this, he was Professor and Interim Head of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio (1985-98). He received his PhD on particulate air pollution engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1985 and his Diploma in chemical engineering from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece in 1977.

He has published over 300 refereed journal articles, has twenty European and U.S. patents licensed to various industries and have contributed to creation of four spinoffs.  His research has been recognized by the 1988 Kenneth T. Whitby Award of the American Association of Aerosol Research, a 1989 Presidential Young Investigator Award from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the 1995 Marian Smoluchowski Award of the European Association for Aerosol Research and the 2003 Thomas Baron Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. In 2009 he won an Advanced Investigator Grant from the European Research Council, in 2011 he received an Alexander von Humboldt Research Award from Germany and in 2012 he was elected to the Swiss Academy of Engineering (SATW). He is Associate Editor of the AIChE Journal and on the editorial boards of seven other journals. He has held visiting professor appointments at the Univ. of Queensland, Australia, Univ. of New Mexico, TU Delft in Netherlands, Harvard School of Public Health, Univ. Karlsruhe and Univ. Duisburg-Essen in Germany. He  was a JSPS Fellow at the Univ. of Hiroshima, Japan and a Russell Severance Springer Visiting Professor at the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Univ. of California, Berkeley.


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