Size-tunable silver nanoparticle synthesis in glycerol driven by a low-pressure nonthermal plasma

Chi Xu, Himashi Andaraarachchi, Zichang Xiong, Mohammadali Eslamisaray, Mark J. Kushner, Uwe R. Kortshagen

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4 Scopus citations


Silver nanoparticles (NPs) are extensively used in electronic components, chemical sensors, and disinfection applications, in which many of their properties depend on particle size. However, control over silver NP size and morphology still remains a challenge for many synthesis techniques. In this work, we demonstrate the surfactant-free synthesis of silver NPs using a low-pressure inductively coupled nonthermal argon plasma. Continuously forming droplets of silver nitrate (AgNO3) precursor dissolved in glycerol are exposed to the plasma, with the droplet residence time being determined by the precursor flow rate. Glycerol has rarely been studied in plasma-liquid interactions but shows favorable properties for controlled NP synthesis at low pressure. We show that the droplet residence time and plasma power have strong influence on NP properties, and that improved size control and particle monodispersity can be achieved by pulsed power operation. Silver NPs had mean diameters of 20 nm with geometric standard deviations of 1.6 under continuous wave operation, which decreased to 6 nm mean and 1.3 geometric standard deviation for pulsed power operation at 100 Hz and 20% duty cycle. We propose that solvated electrons from the plasma and vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) radiation induced electrons produced in glycerol are the main reducing agents of Ag+, the precursor for NPs, while no significant change of chemical composition of the glycerol solvent was detected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number015201
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 22 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by the Department of Defense, The Army Research Office under Cooperative Agreement W911NF-20-1-0105. Parts of this work were carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from NSF through the MRSEC program. Portions of this work were conducted in the Minnesota Nano Center, which is supported by the National Science Foundation through the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) under Award Number ECCS-2025124. The work of M Kushner was also supported by the U S Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Fusion Energy Sciences under Award No. DE-SC0020232 and the National Science Foundation (No. PHY-1902878).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • low-pressure plasma
  • nanoparticle synthesis
  • plasma-liquid interactions
  • silver
  • size control

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