It has been long known that the physical encapsulation of oleic acid-capped iron oxide nanoparticles (OA–IONPs) with the cetyltrimethylammonium (CTA+) surfactant induces the formation of spherical iron oxide nanoparticle clusters (IONPCs). However, the behavior and functional properties of IONPCs in chemical reactions have been largely neglected and are still not well-understood. Herein, we report an unconventional ligand-exchange function of IONPCs activated when dispersed in an ethyl acetate/acetate buffer system. The ligand exchange can successfully transform hydrophobic OA–IONP building blocks of IONPCs into highly hydrophilic, acetate-capped iron oxide nanoparticles (Ac–IONPs). More importantly, we demonstrate that the addition of silica precursors (tetraethyl orthosilicate and 3-aminopropyltriethoxysilane) to the acetate/oleate ligand-exchange reaction of the IONPs induces the disassembly of the IONPCs into monodispersed iron oxide–acetate–silica core–shell–shell (IONPs@acetate@SiO2) nanoparticles. Our observations evidence that the formation of IONPs@acetate@SiO2 nanoparticles is initiated by a unique micellar fusion mechanism between the Pickering-type emulsions of IONPCs and nanoemulsions of silica precursors formed under ethyl acetate buffered conditions. A dynamic rearrangement of the CTA+–oleate bilayer on the IONPC surfaces is proposed to be responsible for the templating process of the silica shells around the individual IONPs. In comparison to previously reported methods in the literature, our work provides a much more detailed experimental evidence of the silica-coating mechanism in a nanoemulsion system. Overall, ethyl acetate is proven to be a very efficient agent for an effortless preparation of monodispersed IONPs@acetate@SiO2 and hydrophilic Ac–IONPs from IONPCs.
The PhD student will be involved in the synthesis of polymer nanoparticles, their functionalization and coating with cell membranes. These nanoparticles will then be used in biological experiments including cellular uptake analysis and assessment of cell viability after chemo and photothermaltherapy.
Preparation of ultrathin iron oxide, sulfide and nitride films on single crystal supports under ultra-high vacuum and studies of structure, electronic, catalytic and magnetic properties of the prepared nanostructures.