AbstractPredicting nanoparticle aggregation and attachment phenomena requires a rigorous understanding of the interplay between crystal structure, particle morphology, surface chemistry, solution conditions, and interparticle forces, yet no comprehensive picture exists. We used an integrated suite of experimental, theoretical, and simulation methods to resolve the effect of solution pH on the aggregation of boehmite nanoplatelets, a case study with important implications for environmental management of legacy nuclear waste. Real-time observations showed that the particles attach preferentially along the (010) planes at pH 8.5 and the (101) planes at pH 11. To rationalize these results, we established the connection between key physicochemical phenomena across the relevant length scales. Starting from molecular-scale simulations of surface hydroxyl reactivity, we developed a surface-scale model of the corresponding electrostatic potentials, with subsequent particle-scale calculations of the resulting driving forces allowing successful prediction of the attachment modes. Finally, we scaled these phenomena to understand the collective structure at the aggregate-scale. Our results indicate that facet-specific differences in surface chemistry produce heterogenous surface charge distributions that are coupled to particle anisotropy and shape-dependent hydrodynamic forces, to play a key role in controlling aggregation behavior.
Published: October 20, 2023