Precipitation of Nanostructured Copper Oxalate: Substructure and Growth Mechanism
The possibility of controlling materials properties by tailoring their substructure at the nanometer scale is a current topic of great interest. To do so, a fundamental understanding of the growth mechanism is of key importance and an analytical challenge as nanostructured materials are often produced by precipitation methods at high supersaturations where formation kinetics are fast. The current study focuses on the precipitation of copper oxalate, which has been previously shown to produce self-assembled ordered nanostructered particles with the promise of being able to tailor this nanometer substructure. In the current study we investigate in detail the growth mechanism and kinetics of precipitation by using in-situ particle size measurement or by stopping the reaction at various stages and using ex-situ methods. Combining the ex-situ methods of high-resolution scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and X-ray powder diffraction along with the in-situ methods, we were able to follow the growth process from 2 min to 2 weeks. The results in the 2-30 min period lead to the proposal of a core-shell growth model with a poorly ordered core and a well-structured shell of nanosized crystallites (50-70 nm), adding support to the brick-by-brick model previously proposed for this phase of particle growth. Particle evolution over long periods up to 2 weeks show a ripening which produces lens-shaped particles that eliminate the “high” surface energy faces observed in the earlier stages of growth. A more complete growth mechanism for copper oxalate precipitation at moderate supersaturations is proposed similar to recent findings for other self- assembled nanostructured particles.