We here describe a bottom-up approach to control the composition of solid/solid interfaces in nanostructured materials, and we test its effectiveness on tetragonal ZrO2, an inorganic phase of great technological significance. Colloidal nanocrystals capped with trioctylphosphine oxide (TOPO) or oleic acid (OA) are deposited, and the organic fraction of the ligands is selectively etched with O2 plasma. The interfaces in the resulting all-inorganic colloidal nanocrystal assemblies are either nearly bare (for OA-capped nanocrystals) or terminated with phosphate groups (for TOPO-capped nanocrystals) resulting from the reaction of phosphine oxide groups with plasma species. The chemical modification of the interfaces has extensive effects on the thermodynamics and kinetics of the material. Different growth kinetics indicate different rate limiting processes of growth (surface diffusion for the phosphate-terminated surfaces and dissolution for the “bare” surfaces). Phosphate termination led to a higher activation energy of growth, and a 3-fold reduction in interfacial energy, and facilitated significantly the conversion of the tetragonal phase into the monoclinic phase. Films devoid of residual ligands persisted in the tetragonal phase at temperatures as high as 900 °C for 24 h.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/emily-smith/45/