Sol-gel routes to metal oxide nanoparticles in organic solvents under exclusion of water represent a valuable alternative to aqueous methods. In comparison to the complex aqueous chemistry, nonaqueous processes offer the possibility to better understand and to control the reaction pathways on a molecular level, enabling the synthesis of nanomaterials with high crystallinity and well-defined and uniform particle morphologies. The manifold role of the organic species in providing the oxygen for the oxide formation and in controlling the crystal growth and the assembly properties makes it possible to tailor the morphological, structural and compositional characteristics of the final inorganic products.
In addition to metal oxides with nearly spherical crystallite sizes in the range of just a few nanometers, also more complex morphologies such as nanowire bundles, nanorods or lamellar organic-inorganic hybrids of varying hierarchical complexity can be achieved in one step and without the use of any surfactants. The spherical nanocrystallites are on the one hand versatile building blocks for the fabrication of fully crystalline and ordered mesoporous materials and on the other hand suitable precursors for the synthesis of metal nitride nanoparticles.
This proceeding provides an overview of the various oxidic nanoparticles synthesized via the nonaqueous and surfactant-free sol-gel approach, summarizes the most frequently found formation mechanisms, and offers some insight into the crystallization pathway of nanoparticles. Furthermore, the use of metal oxide nanoparticles as nanobuilding blocks for the preparation of nano- and mesostructures as well as their transformation into metal nitride nanocrystals will be discussed.