Synthesis and characterisation of titanium sol-gels in varied gravity environments

Hales, Matthew Cameron (2012) Synthesis and characterisation of titanium sol-gels in varied gravity environments. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Sol-gel synthesis in varied gravity is only a relatively new topic in the literature and further investigation is required to explore its full potential as a method to synthesise novel materials. Although trialled for systems such as silica, the specific application of varied gravity synthesis to other sol-gel systems such as titanium has not previously been undertaken. Current literature methods for the synthesis of sol-gel material in reduced gravity could not be applied to titanium sol-gel processing, thus a new strategy had to be developed in this study.

To successfully conduct experiments in varied gravity a refined titanium sol-gel chemical precursor had to be developed which allowed the single solution precursor to remain un-reactive at temperatures up to 50oC and only begin to react when exposed to a pressure decrease from a vacuum. Due to the new nature of this precursor, a thorough characterisation of the reaction precursors was subsequently undertaken with the use of techniques such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Infra-red and UV-Vis spectroscopy in order to achieve sufficient understanding of precursor chemistry and kinetic stability. This understanding was then used to propose gelation reaction mechanisms under varied gravity conditions. Two unique reactor systems were designed and built with the specific purpose to allow the effects of varied gravity (high, normal, reduced) during synthesis of titanium sol-gels to be studied. The first system was a centrifuge capable of providing high gravity environments of up to 70 g’s for extended periods, whilst applying a 100 mbar vacuum and a temperature of 40-50oC to the reaction chambers. The second system to be used in the QUT Microgravity Drop Tower Facility was also required to provide the same thermal and vacuum conditions used in the centrifuge, but had to operate autonomously during free fall.

Through the use of post synthesis characterisation techniques such as Raman Spectroscopy, X-Ray diffraction (XRD) and N2 adsorption, it was found that increased gravity levels during synthesis, had the greatest effect on the final products. Samples produced in reduced and normal gravity appeared to form amorphous gels containing very small particles with moderate surface areas. Whereas crystalline anatase (TiO2), was found to form in samples synthesised above 5 g with significant increases in crystallinity, particle size and surface area observed when samples were produced at gravity levels up to 70 g. It is proposed that for samples produced in higher gravity, an increased concentration gradient of water is forms at the bottom of the reacting film due to forced convection. The particles formed in higher gravity diffuse downward towards this excess of water, which favours the condensation reaction of remaining sol gel precursors with the particles promoting increased particle growth. Due to the removal of downward convection in reduced gravity, particle growth due to condensation reaction processes are physically hindered hydrolysis reactions favoured instead. Another significant finding from this work was that anatase could be produced at relatively low temperatures of 40-50oC instead of the conventional method of calcination above 450oC solely through sol-gel synthesis at higher gravity levels.

It is hoped that the outcomes of this research will lead to an increased understanding of the effects of gravity on chemical synthesis of titanium sol-gel, potentially leading to the development of improved products suitable for diverse applications such as semiconductor or catalyst materials as well as significantly reducing production and energy costs through manufacturing these materials at significantly lower temperatures.

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ID Code: 61605
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Steinberg, Theodore & Martens, Wayde
Keywords: sol-gel chemistry, varied gravity, reduced gravity, microgravity, high gravity, centrifuge, drop tower, parabolic flights, engineering, vacuum, test system, titanium, TiO2, anatase, methanol, acetylacetone, precursor, nano, particle, crystalline, BET, XRD, Raman, infrared, spectroscopy, NMR, nitrogen adsorption, isotherm, kinetics, colloidal, particulate
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 31 Jul 2013 02:00
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2015 05:27

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