Colloidal dispersions of oxide nanoparticles in ionic liquids: elucidating the key parameters
The combination of ionic liquid and nanoparticle properties are highly appealing for a number of applications. However, this far there has been limited systematic exploration of colloidal stabilisation in these solvents, which provide initial direction towards their employment. Here, we present a new and comprehensive study of the key parameters affecting colloidal stability in dispersions of oxide nanoparticles in ionic liquids. Twelve diverse and representative ionic liquids are used to disperse iron oxide nanoparticles. The liquid interface of these nanoparticles has been carefully tuned in a molecular solvent before the transfer into an ionic liquid, without passing through the powder state. A multiscale-characterisation is applied, on both the micro and nano scale, incorporating both Small Angle X-ray Scattering and Dynamic Light Scattering. The results show the surface charge of the nanoparticles to be a crucial parameter, controlling the layering of the surrounding ionic liquid, and hence producing a repulsion allowing efficient counterbalancing the attractive interactions. For intermediate charges the strength of the repulsion depends on the specific system causing varying levels of aggregation or even none at all. Several samples consist of sufficiently repulsive systems leading to single dispersed nanoparticles, stable in the long term. Thanks to the magnetic properties of the chosen iron oxide nanoparticles, true ferrofluids are produced, appropriate for applications using magnetic fields. The strength and breadth of the observed trends suggests that the key parameters identified here can be generalised to most ionic liquids.