High-surface-area corundum by mechanochemically induced phase transformation of boehmite

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Science  25 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6464, pp. 485-489
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw9377

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Milling corundum nanoparticles

High-purity corundum (α-Al2O3) nanoparticles could enable applications such as more stable catalyst supports or precursors for high-strength ceramics. Milling of corundum only produces micrometer-scale particles, and direct synthesis from other aluminum oxides that would be likely starting materials, such as γ-Al2O3, fails because of the high activation barrier for converting the lattice structure of these cubic close-packed oxides. Amrute et al. show that ball milling of boehmite, γ-AlOOH, created ∼13-nanometer-diameter corundum nanoparticles of high purity through a mechanically induced dehydration reaction and by the effect of milling impacts on the surface energy of the particles.

Science, this issue p. 485


In its nanoparticulate form, corundum (α-Al2O3) could lead to several applications. However, its production into nanoparticles (NPs) is greatly hampered by the high activation energy barrier for its formation from cubic close-packed oxides and the sporadic nature of its nucleation. We report a simple synthesis of nanometer-sized α-Al2O3 (particle diameter ~13 nm, surface areas ~140 m2 g−1) by the mechanochemical dehydration of boehmite (γ-AlOOH) at room temperature. This transformation is accompanied by severe microstructural rearrangements and might involve the formation of rare mineral phases, diaspore and tohdite, as intermediates. Thermodynamic calculations indicate that this transformation is driven by the shift in stability from boehmite to α-Al2O3 caused by milling impacts on the surface energy. Structural water in boehmite plays a crucial role in generating and stabilizing α-Al2O3 NPs.

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