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Sustainable nanoparticle production

The spark ablation process used in the VSParticle G1 is a purely physical process that only requires electricity, a carrier gas and electrode material to produce clean nanoparticles. No additional chemicals are required for the production or to stabilize the particles in the aerosol. The produced nanoparticles can be directly incorporated into the next process step or applied in a product by, for example, impaction, electrostatic precipitation or filtering. This way the unique physical properties of the nanoparticles are directly available in the product. The carrier gas can simply be recycled by passing it through a filter and used again, minimizing the environmental impact of the process.

Spark Ablation

Spark ablation is a gas phase process for the continuous production of very small particles, that can be switched on and off at the touch of a button. The inputs of the process are a conductive feedstock (e.g. Ag or Cu rod), electricity, and a carrier gas. The output is a highly concentrated aerosol of pure (metal) nanoparticles suspended in a clean gas at low temperature (<50°C). With inert carrier gases such as Ar and N2, pure metal nanoparticles are produced with surfaces free from (organic) contaminants. By generating nanoparticles on demand, VSParticle allow you to incorporate nanoparticles directly into your end product without worrying about handling, storage and stability (oxidation). Because no waste streams are produced, spark ablation is uniquely suitable for integration into (existing) production processes. 

Wide variety of supported materials

Spark ablation is a versatile technology that works with a wide variety of materials, including metals (e.g. silver, copper, gold, platinum, tungsten or nickel), semiconductors (e.g. silicon) and carbon. The VSParticle G1 has two electrodes, so that nano mixtures of two (previously immiscible) materials are easily accessible as well.



Nanoparticle formation

Particle growth is determined by a physical process that allows the mean size of the nanoparticles to be controlled from several atoms to tens of nanometers, by modifying flow and energy input in an intuitive manner. Due to the high temperature in the spark (>20.000K), there is no practical limit to the materials that can be processed. In the most basic form, the material is an elemental metal. Examples of processable elemental materials include noble and common metals, but also Ga (low melting point), W (high melting point), Si (semiconductor), C, Mg (oxidation sensitive). Elemental mixtures are also possible, both for alloying and non-alloying materials.

Selected literature


Review of Spark Discharge Generators for Production of Nanoparticle Aerosols

Meuller, B. O. et al., Aerosol Science and Technology (2012), doi: 10.1080/02786826.2012.705448

Review paper focusing on different implementations of spark generators

New developments in spark production of nanoparticles

Pfeiffer, T. V. et al., Advanced Powder Technology (2014), doi: 10.1016/j.apt.2013.12.005

Review covering size control, scale-up and particle composition/mixing.

Aerosol science & technology

Enormous Enhancement of van der Waals Forces between Small Silver Particles

Burtscher, H., & Schmidt-Ott, A., Physical Review Letters (1982), doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.48.1734

Use of spark generated nanoparticles in studying coagulation of very small particles in a gas, indicating a 104 enhancement of dispersion forces in silver.

The transition from spark to arc discharge and its implications with respect to nanoparticle production

Hontañón, E. et al., Journal of Nanoparticle Research (2013), doi: 10.1007/s11051-013-1957-y

Scale-up considerations and the relation of spark discharge to other plasma based aerosol methods.

Aerosol generation by spark discharge

Schwyn, S. et al., Journal of Aerosol Science (1988), doi: 10.1016/0021-8502(88)90215-7

Original description of aerosol particle generator for production of <10nm aerosols of carbon and gold.

Atomic Cluster Generation with an Atmospheric Pressure Spark Discharge Generator

Maisser, A. et al., Aerosol Science and Technology (2015), doi: 10.1080/02786826.2015.1080812

Production of clusters comprising <25 silver atoms.

Precursor-Less Coating of Nanoparticles in the Gas Phase

Pfeiffer, T. V. et al., Materials (2015), doi: 10.3390/ma8031027

Applying metal coatings on nanoparticle aerosols by spark ablation.

Generation of nanoparticles by spark discharge

Tabrizi, N. S. et al., Journal of Nanoparticle Research (2009), doi: 10.1007/s11051-008-9407-y

General guidelines on spark operating conditions.

Materials science

Reduced Enthalpy of Metal Hydride Formation for Mg–Ti Nanocomposites Produced by Spark Discharge Generation

Anastasopol, A. et al., Journal of the American Chemical Society (2013), doi: 10.1021/ja3123416

Two immiscible metals combined in individual nanoparticles; a metastable alloy of magnesium and titanium reduces the operating temperature in hydrogen storage.

Fractal disperse hydrogen sorption kinetics in spark discharge generated Mg/NbOx and Mg/Pd nanocomposites

Anastasopol, A. et al., Applied Physics Letters (2011), doi: 10.1063/1.3659315

Agglomerates of magnesium nanoparticles and niobium oxide or palladium catalyst particles as a hydrogen storage material.

Spark generation of monometallic and bimetallic aerosol nanoparticles

Byeon, J. H. et al., Journal of Aerosol Science (2008), doi: 10.1016/j.jaerosci.2008.05.006

Production and characterization of monometallic (palladium (Pd), platinum (Pt), gold (Au), and silver (Ag) from electrodes of the same material) and bimetallic (Pd-Pt, Pd-Au, and Pd-Ag from electrodes of different materials) aerosol particles produced by spark discharge.

Characterization of Tungsten Oxide Thin Films Produced by Spark Ablation for NO2 Gas Sensing

Isaac, N. et al., ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2016), doi: 10.1021/acsami.5b11078

Tungsten oxide (WOx) thin films used as chemosensor for NO2 sensing.

Optical hydrogen sensing with nanoparticulate Pd–Au films produced by spark ablation

Isaac, N. A. et al., Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.snb.2015.05.095

Optical H2 gas sensing with thin nanoparticulate films Pd–Au (88–12 at.%).

Charge Dependent Catalytic Activity of Gasborne Nanoparticles

Peineke, C. et al., Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (2011), doi: 10.1166/jnn.2011.4761

Catalytic activity measurements on spark generated aerosols.

Generation of mixed metallic nanoparticles from immiscible metals by spark discharge

Tabrizi, N. S. et al., Journal of Nanoparticle Research (2010), doi: 10.1007/s11051-009-9603-4

Intra-particle mixing of macroscopically immiscible metals. Ag-Cu, Au-Pt and Cu-W.

Synthesis of mixed metallic nanoparticles by spark discharge

Tabrizi, N. S. et al., Journal of Nanoparticle Research (2008), doi: 10.1007/s11051-008-9568-8

Intra-particle mixing using alloyed electrodes, or two different electrodes.

Silicon nanoparticles produced by spark discharge

Vons, V. et al., Journal of Nanoparticle Research (2011), doi: 10.1007/s11051-011-0466-0

Spark discharge with semiconductors. Production of pyrophoric silicon nanoparticles with primary particle size of 3–5 from pristine and doped silicon rods.

Production of carbonaceous nanostructures from a silver-carbon ambient spark

Byeon, J. H., & Kim, J.-W., Applied Physics Letters (2010), doi: 10.1063/1.3396188

Various carbon nanostructures (fibres/tubes/shells/particles) of carbon and silver produced using a carbon and a silver rod.