Control of morphology and nanostructure of copper and cobalt oxalates: Effect of complexing ions, polymeric additives and molecular weight
Precipitated oxalates are often nanostructured and can be used as precursors for nanostructured oxides for different applications. The modification of the particle shape and nanostructures of both copper and cobalt oxalates has been demonstrated using polymeric additives or complexing counter-ions. In the case of cobalt oxalate the characteristic elongated rod particle shape (axial ratio of 10) can be modified by using polymethymethacrylate (PMMA) to produce particles with lower axial ratios of 2, through cubes all the way to platelets (axial ratio 0.2). The PMMA inhibits the growth of the particles along the  direction more and more strongly as the concentration of the polymer increases. The crystallite size from XRD line broadening is not modified by the PMMA indicating that the PMMA does not influence the nucleation and growth but modifies the aggregation kinetics. Copper oxalates precipitated in the presence of different cellulose derived polymers with different molecular weights and functional groups (methyl and propyl) showed sensitivity to both molecular weight and functional group. Higher molecular weights did not influence the copper oxalate particle shape, whereas methyl cellulose gave elongated particles and propyl celluloses gave platelet like particles. Copper oxalate precipitated in the presence of acetate counter ions gave platelets with an axial ratio of 0.15 compared to the cushion-like morphology (axial ratio 0.5). The primary crystallites were more elongated along the  direction in the presence of acetate, modifying the proportion of the hydrophobic and hydrophilic surfaces and hence influencing the aggregation kinetics and particle shape. The copper and cobalt oxalate particle formation seems to be dominated by the primary particle aggregation with the different additives interacting specifically with different crystallographic faces of the primary particles. By tuning this interaction particles with different shapes and substructures can be formed.