A simple and soft chemical deaggregation method producing single-digit detonation nanodiamonds†
Detonation nanodiamonds (DNDs) are a class of very small and spherical diamond nanocrystals. They are used in polymer reinforcement materials or as drug delivery systems in the field of nanomedicine. Synthesized by detonation, only the final deaggregation step down to the single-digit nanometer size (<10 nm) unfolds their full potential. Existing deaggregation methods mainly rely on mechanical forces, such as high-power sonication or bead milling. These techniques entail drawbacks such as contamination of the sample and the need for a specialized apparatus. In this paper, we report a purely chemical deaggregation method by simply combining oxidation in air followed by a boiling acid treatment, to produce highly stable single-digit DNDs in a suspension. The resulting DNDs are surface functionalized with carboxyl groups, the final boiling acid treatment removes primary metal contaminants such as magnesium, iron or copper and the nanoparticles remain dispersed over a wide pH range. Our method can be easily carried out in a standard chemistry laboratory with commonly available laboratory apparatus. This is a key step for many DND-based applications, ranging from materials science to biological or medical applications.