Droplet factories: Synthesis and assembly of metal nanoparticles on magnetic supports

The interface between two immiscible liquids represent an ideal substrate for the assembly of nanomaterials. The defect free surface provides a reproducible support for creating densely packed ordered materials. Here a droplet flow reactor is presented for the synthesis and/or assembly of nanomaterials at the interface of the emulsion. Each droplet acts as a microreactor for a reaction between decamethylferrocene (DmFc) within the hexane and metal salts (Ag+/Pd2+) in the aqueous phase. The hypothesis was that a spontaneous, interfacial reaction would lead to the assembly of nanomaterials creating a Pickering emulsion. The subsequent removal of the solvents showed how the Ag nanoparticles remain trapped at the interface and retain the shape of the droplet, however the Pd nanoparticles were dispersed with no tertiary structure. To further exploit this, a one-step process where the particles are synthesised and then assembled into core-shell materials was proposed. The same reactions were performed in the presence of oleic acid stabilised iron oxide nanoparticles dispersed within the hexane. It was shown that by changing the reaction rate and ratio between metal and iron oxide a continuous coating of metal nanoparticles can be formed on top of an iron oxide microsphere, or form a uniform composite. These insights offer a new method and chemistry within flow reactors for the creation of palladium and silver nanoparticles. We use the technique to create metal coated iron oxide nanomaterials but the methodology could be easily transferred to the assembly of other materials.