Gas-Phase, Bulk Production of Metal Oxide Nanowires and Nanoparticles Using a Microwave Plasma Jet Reactor

We report gas-phase production of metal oxide nanowires (NWs) and nanoparticles (NPs) using direct oxidation of micron-size metal particles in a high-throughput, atmospheric pressure microwave plasma jet reactor. We demonstrate the concept with production of SnO2, ZnO, TiO2, and Al2O3 NWs. The results suggest that the NW production primarily depends upon the starting metal particle size, microwave power, and the gas-phase composition. The resulting NW powders could be separated from the unreacted metal and metal oxide NPs by sonication in 1-methoxy 2-propanol followed by gravity sedimentation. The experiments conducted using higher microwave powers resulted in spherical, unagglomerated, metal oxide NPs. The results obtained using various metal oxides suggest that the mechanism of NW nucleation and growth in the gas phase is similar to that observed in experiments with metal particles supported on substrates. A simplified analysis suggests that the metal powders melt in the plasma primarily with the heat generated from chemical reactions, such as radical recombination and oxidation reactions on the particle surface.