Characterization techniques for nanoparticles: comparison and complementarity upon studying nanoparticle properties
Nanostructures have attracted huge interest as a rapidly growing class of materials for many applications. Several techniques have been used to characterize the size, crystal structure, elemental composition and a variety of other physical properties of nanoparticles. In several cases, there are physical properties that can be evaluated by more than one technique. Different strengths and limitations of each technique complicate the choice of the most suitable method, while often a combinatorial characterization approach is needed. In addition, given that the significance of nanoparticles in basic research and applications is constantly increasing, it is necessary that researchers from separate fields overcome the challenges in the reproducible and reliable characterization of nanomaterials, after their synthesis and further process (e.g. annealing) stages. The principal objective of this review is to summarize the present knowledge on the use, advances, advantages and weaknesses of a large number of experimental techniques that are available for the characterization of nanoparticles. Different characterization techniques are classified according to the concept/group of the technique used, the information they can provide, or the materials that they are destined for. We describe the main characteristics of the techniques and their operation principles and we give various examples of their use, presenting them in a comparative mode, when possible, in relation to the property studied in each case.