Surface chemistry of metal oxide nanoparticles: NMR and TGA quantification,

F. Kunc, M. Gallerneault, O. Kodra, A. Brinkmann, G. P. Lopinski, and L. J. Johnston*,
Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 414, 4409-4425, (2022).
Full text (PDF) Supplement (PDF)

Figure from paper

Surface functionalization is widely used to control the behavior of nanomaterials for a range of applications. However, methods to accurately quantify surface functional groups and coatings are not yet routinely applied to nanomaterial characterization. We have employed a combination of quantitative NMR (qNMR) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) to address this problem for commercial cerium, nickel, and iron oxide nanoparticles (NPs) that have been modified to add functional coatings with (3-aminopropyl)triethoxysilane (APTES), stearic acid, and polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP). The qNMR method involves quantification of material that is released from the NPs and quantified in the supernatant after removal of NPs. Removal of aminopropylsilanes was accomplished by basic hydrolysis whereas PVP and stearic acid were removed by ligand exchange using sodium hexametaphosphate and pentadecafluorooctanoic acid, respectively. The method accuracy was confirmed by analysis of NPs with a known content of surface groups. Complementary TGA studies were carried out in both air and argon atmosphere with FT-IR of evolved gases in argon to confirm the identity of the functional groups. TGA measurements for some unfunctionalized samples show mass loss due to unidentified components which makes quantification of functional groups in surface-​modified samples less reliable. XPS provides information on the presence of surface contaminants and the level of surface hydroxylation for selected samples. Despite the issues associated with accurate quantification using TGA, the TGA estimates agree reasonably well with the qNMR data for samples with high surface loading. This study highlights the issues in analysis of commercial nanomaterials and is an advance towards the development of generally applicable methods for quantifying surface functional groups.