Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Sarah C. Larsen
Nanoscience is an emerging field that can provide potential routes towards addressing critical issues such as clean and sustainable energy, environmental remediation and human health. Specifically, porous nanomaterials, such as zeolites and mesoporous silica, are found in a wide range of applications including catalysis, drug delivery, imaging, environmental protection, and sensing. The characterization of the physical and chemical properties of nanocrystalline materials is essential to the realization of these innovative applications. The great advantage of porous nanocrystals is their increased external surface area that can control their biological, chemical and catalytic activities. Specific functional groups synthesized on the surface of nanoparticles are able to absorb heavy metals from the solution or target disease cells, such as cancer cells. In these studies, three main issues related to functionalized nanomaterials will be addressed through the application of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques including: 1) surface composition and structure of functionalized nanocrystalline particles; 2) chemical properties of the guest molecules on the surface of nanomaterials, and 3) adsorption and reactivity of surface bound functional groups.
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is one of the major spectroscopic techniques available for the characterization of molecular structure and conformational dynamics with atomic level detail. This thesis deals with the application of 1H solution state NMR to porous nanomaterial in an aqueous environment. Understanding the aqueous phase behavior of functionalized nanomaterials is a key factor in the design and development of safe nanomaterials because their interactions with living systems are always mediated through the aqueous phase. This is often due to a lack of fundamental knowledge in interfacial chemical and physical phenomena that occur on the surface of nanoparticles. The use of solution NMR spectroscopy results in high-resolution NMR spectra. This technique is selective for protons on the surface organic functional groups due to their motional averaging in solution. In this study, 1H solution NMR spectroscopy was used to investigate the interface of the organic functional groups in D2O.
The pKa for these functional groups covalently bound to the surface of nanoparticles was determined using an NMR-pH titration method based on the variation in the proton chemical shift for the alkyl group protons closest to the amine group with pH.
The adsorption of toxic contaminants (chromate and arsenate anions) on the surface of functionalized silicalite-1 and mesoporous silica nanoparticles has been studied by 1H solution NMR spectroscopy. With this method, the surface bound contaminants are detected. The analysis of the intensity and position of these peaks allows quantitative assessment of the relative amounts of functional groups with adsorbed metal ions. These results demonstrate the sensitivity of solution NMR spectroscopy to the electronic environment and structure of the surface functional groups on porous nanomaterials.
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