Engineering nanoparticle size and shape: Multiscale modeling, simulation and applications
Nanoparticles show new and interesting properties different from bulk materials due to their extremely small size (diameter), large specific surface area and spatial anisotropy. It is thus critical to understand the variables that control its synthesis, leading to a desired application. Control of mean nanoparticle size, particle size distribution and specially, anisotropic particle shapes is the first step in many of these applications, involving enhanced adsorption and reaction rates.
To gain further insight into the mechanism of formation of nanoparticles, we have already developed models on how individual nanoparticles form by processes like multiphase mass transfer, reaction, nucleation, Brownian collision, surface growth, coagulation and Ostwald ripening, followed by interparticle forces and differential growth rates along different crystal facets, leading to anisotropic particles.
With the above mechanism in place, in this project, one has to build on our existing mesoscale mathematical models (population balance equations) and computer simulation (kinetic Monte Carlo) codes to apply for nanoparticle formation and growth in microemulsions, macroemulsions and bulk solvents. In conjunction, one can also carry out experiments, if required, involving other complex nanostructures, like core-shell or oval and flower-shaped nanoparticles, besides cylindrical nanorods. Copper/silver/gold as metallic and iron oxide/zinc oxide/silica as metal oxide nanoparticles will be considered as typical model systems, since we are already using them, for different applications, like, chemical sensing, water purification devices, catalysis and drug delivery.
Thus, the student can only perform multiscale computational research (using population balance equation or kinetic Monte Carlo simulation) or do a combination of experiments and modeling. Depending on the student's interest, there would be further scope to use the model and simulation predictions with available or new experimental data, for improving these exciting applications of nanotechnology.
Finally, exploring whether anisotropic particles can display enhanced reactivity, is of paramount importance, as it will open up a new paradigm in reaction engineering. This will lead to enhancement in rates of existing or new chemical reactions, utilizing such particles as catalysts. It can be a potential new paradigm in reaction engineering.