Back to overview

Unlocking complex ceramic nanocrystals using kinetic control and mechanistic insight

English title Unlocking complex ceramic nanocrystals using kinetic control and mechanistic insight
Applicant De Roo Jonathan
Number 194172
Funding scheme Eccellenza grant
Research institution Departement Chemie Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Inorganic Chemistry
Start/End 01.04.2021 - 31.03.2026
Approved amount 1'482'667.00
Show all

Keywords (14)

metal nitrides; metal oxides; nucleation and growth; material synthesis; precursor chemistry; ceramics; colloidal nanocrystals; core/shell nanocrystals; Pair Distribution Function analysis; metal alkylamido complexes; group 4; titanium, zirconium, hafnium; nanoparticles; X-ray diffraction

Lay Summary (German)

Nanokristalle sind Materialien mit spannenden Anwendungen, die versprechen, Leben zu retten (Gesundheitsfürsorge) und Energie zu sparen. Die Synthese von nanostrukturierten Materialien stellt jedoch ein Problem dar: wir wissen noch nicht genau wie es funktioniert, wie Nanokristallen wachsen und wie wir die Grösse kontrollieren können.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts

Unser übergeordnetes Ziel ist Keramische nanomaterialen besser zu produzieren. Wir konzentrieren uns auf drei Metalle: Titan, Zirkonium und Hafnium. Die entsprechenden Metalloxide und –nitride sind technologisch relevant, aber diese Materielle sind unterentwickelt. Hier werden wir diese Nanokristalle mit einer rationalen Strategie synthetisieren, die auf einem gründlichen Verständnis des Reaktionsmechanismus beruht. Wir sind der Absicht die Komplexität dieser Materialien zu erhöhen, indem wir neuartigen Architekturen wie Kern-Schalen (wie ein Eigelb in einem Ei) herstellen oder ein bisschen Metalle in das reine Metalloxid einmischen (ein Prozess, den wir Dotierung nennen).

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext des Forschungsprojekts

Dieses Projekt wird wichtige Beiträge zur Nanowissenschaft leisten und die Entwicklung neuer Materialien ermöglichen. Vor allem untersuchen wir Materialen die Anwendungen haben in Energieumwandlung und Gesundheitswesen.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 16.11.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
189622 X-ray Diffractometer for Pair Distribution Function analysis of nanocrystals and nanostructured materials 01.01.2020 R'EQUIP
182895 NCCR MSE: Molecular Systems Engineering (phase II) 01.07.2018 National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs)


Background. Colloidal (= non-aggregated) metal oxide and nitride nanocrystals (NCs) based on group 4 metals (Ti, Zr, Hf), are an underdeveloped materials class. However, they have the potential to play a central role in cancer therapy, bio-imaging, catalysis, memory devices, smart windows, ferroelectrics, solar cells, batteries, etc. They are nontoxic and chemically and thermally stable (= ceramic), key attributes for their successful application. However, the current synthetic methods towards the oxide NCs lack control over size, composition and structure while the colloidal nitride NCs are completely elusive. In addition, there is little mechanistic insight in the syntheses that do produce high quality metal oxide NCs. While the analysis of kinetics is usually the key to uncovering reaction mechanisms, the case of colloidal NCs is difficult because there are hundreds of elementary steps involved. Changes in precursor concentration or temperature do not only affect the kinetics of the first step (precursor conversion) but also influence the rates of nucleation and growth of the crystals.Goals and methods. My hypothesis is that well-defined, tunable precursors will provide an orthogonal handle on the kinetics of metal oxide and metal nitride NC formation. This is key to our general objective of obtaining mechanistic insight in and control over the formation of complex ceramic NCs. The project has four specific aims:1.We design a series of metal complexes as precursors with tunable conversion kinetics. Our first targets are the binary oxide and nitride NCs of Ti, Zr and Hf via a surfactant assisted approach. 2.We employ the tunable precursors to investigate the mechanism of NC formation. We aim to elucidate the precursor decomposition and the crystallization mechanism, and build a theoretical framework.3.We aim to apply our kinetic control and mechanistic insight to synthesize complex ceramic NCs. To demonstrate the power of our approach, we target highly challenging metal oxides: doped NCs, core/shell architectures and ternary compositions. 4.Finally, we focus on multimetal metal nitrides.Impact. Nanomaterial synthesis does not yet feature the predictability, reproducibility and intricacy of organic synthesis but this project aspires to be a step along the way toward this goal. If successful, it will change the way ceramic NCs are synthesized, going from an ad hoc, trial-and-error approach to a rational design. In addition, this project will provide exciting, previously inaccessible metal oxide building blocks for material science and nanomedicine. Finally, this project will break open a new field: colloidal metal nitrides.