Diseño y síntesis de materiales nanoestructurados basados en aluminatos de estroncio con propiedades fotoluminiscentes
Author: Rocío Estefanía Rojas Hernández
Director: Prof.José Francisco Fernández Lozano
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
The synthesis of sub-micron photoluminescent particles has been widely studied during the past decade because of the promising industrial applications of these materials. A large number of matrices has been developed, being SrAl2O4 host doped with europium (Eu2+) and dysprosium (Dy3+) the most extensively studied, because of its better stability and long-lasting luminescence. These functional inorganic materials have a wide field of application in persistent luminous paints, inks and ceramics. Large attention has been paid to the development of an efficient method of preparation of SrAl2O4 powders, including solgel method, hydrothermal synthesis, laser synthesis, combustion synthesis and solid state reaction. Many of these techniques are not compatible with large-scale production and with the principles of sustainability. Moreover, industrial processing of highly crystalline powders usually requires high synthesis temperatures, typically between 1300 a 1900oC, with long processing times, especially for solid state reaction. As a result, the average particle size is typically within the 20-100 μm range. This large particle size is limiting for current applications that demand sub-micron particles. Therefore, the objective of this work is to develop new approaches to overcome these limitations. Within this frame, it is necessary to undertake the following purposes: To study the parameters that govern the particle size reduction by milling and their relation with the photoluminescence properties. To obtain SrAl2O4:Eu, Dy by combustion synthesis, assessing the effect of the temperature and the amount of fuel (urea) to synthesize highly crystalline particles minimizing the presence of secondary phases. To develop new synthesis methods to obtain SrAl2O4:Eu, Dy powders. The molten salt synthesis has been proposed. As the method is a novel route, the reaction mechanism should be determine as a function of the salt mixture, the ratio of the salt, the kind of Al2O3 and their particle size and the temperature and the atmosphere of the thermal treatment. To improve the efficiency of the synthesis process to obtain SrAl2O4:Eu, Dy powders with optimal final properties and easily scalable. On the basis of decreasing the particle size by using commercial product SrAl2O4:Eu2+, Dy3+ as raw material, the effects of different milling methods have been evaluated. Wet milling can significantly alter the structure of the material through hydrolysis reaction even in ethanol media. For overcoming the drawbacks of wet milling, a dry milling-based processes are studied. High energy dry milling process allows a great reduction of the particle size, however milling times above 10 min produce agglomeration and accelerates the decrease of the photoluminescence feature. To solve these issues the low energy dry milling process proposed effectively reduces the particle size to d50=2.8 μm, and improves the homogeneity avoiding the amorphization in comparison with previous methods. The X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscope characterization allow to infer that the large variations in PL (Photoluminescence) values by high energy milling process are a consequence mainly of the crystallite size reduction. The lesser variation in PL values by low energy milling proces is related to the coherent crystalline domain preservation and the unnoticeable amorphization. These results corroborate that the photoluminescence intensity and the persistent luminescence of the SrAl2O4:Eu2+, Dy3+ powders depend extrinsically on the morphology of the particles such as particle size, grain size, surface damage and intrinsically on the crystallinity (crystallite size); being the intrinsically effects the ones that have a significant influence on the photoluminescent response. By combustion method, nanostructured SrAl2O4:Eu2+, Dy3+ sheets with a thickness ≤1 μm have been obtained. The amount of fuel (urea) in the reaction has an important influence on the phase composition; urea contents larger than the stoichiometric one require the presence of an oxidant agent such as HNO3 to complete the reaction. A higher amount of urea (excess of urea: denoted m>1, being m=1 the stoichiometric composition) including an oxidizing agent produces SrAl2O4:Eu2+,Dy3+ particles with persistent luminescence due to the effective chelation of the cations and the creation of suitable atmospheric conditions to reduce the Eu3+ to Eu2+. Therefore, optimizing the synthesis parameters in combustion synthesis by using a higher amount of urea and an internal oxidizing agent allows to complete the reaction. The amount of secondary phases can be significantly reduced and the photoluminescence response can be enhanced. This situation is attributed to a higher energy that improves the crystallinity of the powders. The powders obtained have a particle size c.a. 5-25 μm with a thickness ≤1 μm and require relatively low ignition temperatures (600oC). It is possible to reduce the particle size by a low energy dry milling but this process implies the decrease of the photoluminescent response. However, a post-thermal treatment in a reducing atmosphere allows the improvement of the properties due to the increment of crystallinity and the reduction of Eu3+ to Eu2+. Compared with the powder resulted from solid state method (commercial reference: average particle size, 20 μm and heterogeneous particle size distribution) the emission intensity of the powder prepared by combustion method achieve the values between 35% to 21% of the reference powder intensity. Moreover, the initial intensity of the decay curve is 20% of the intensity of the reference powder. Taking in account these results, it is necessary to explore other methods to synthesize the powders For that reason, an original synthetic route has been developed in this study: the molten salt assisted process to obtain highly crystalline SrAl2O4 powders with nanometric sized crystallites. The molten salt was composed of a mixture of NaCl and KCl using a 0.5:0.5 molar ratio (eutectic mixture hereafter abbreviated as (NaCl-KCl)e). The main advantages of salt addition is the increase of the reaction rate, the significant reduction of the synthesis temperature and the duration of the thermal treatment in comparison with classic solid state method. The SrAl2O4 formation is promoted due to the high mobility of the Sr2+ cations in the liquid medium. Different kinds of Al2O3 have been employed to evaluate the role of the size and the nature of this precursor on the kinetics of reaction, on the morphology and the final properties of the product. The SrAl2O4:Eu2+, Dy3+ powders have pseudo-spherical morphology and particle size ≤0.5 μm when a sub-micron Al2O3 ( 0.5 μm Al2O3, 0.1 μm Al2O3 and γ-Al2O3) has been used. This can be attributed to a higher reactivity in the system and the dominance of dissolution-precipitation mechanism. However, the use of larger alumina (6 μm Al2O3) modifies the reaction pathway leading to a different reaction evolution. More specifically, the growth of SrAl2O4 sub-micron particles on the surface of hexagonal platelets of 6μm Al2O3 is promoted. The particles retain the shape of the original Al2O3 and this formation process can be attributed to a «core-shell» mechanism. The particles obtained exhibit different photoluminescent response as a function of the final morphology of the powder. Therefore, through this study, it has been elucidated the reaction mechanisms of SrAl2O4 formation assisted by (NaCl-KCl)e that are governed by the diffusion of SrCO3 and the reactivity of the alumina particles. Optimizing the Al2O3/SrO ratio of the SrAl2O4:Eu, Dy powders synthesized with 6 μm Al2O3 as a precursor, the secondary phases and the concentration of dopant needed can be reduced keeping the photoluminescent response of the synthesized powder. Compared with the commercial reference powder, up to 90% of the emission intensity of the reference powder has been achieved for the powder prepared by molten salt method using 6μm Al2O3 as alumina precursor. Concerning the initial intensity of the decay curve, 60% of the initial intensity of the reference powder has been obtained. Additionally, it is necessary to take into account that SrAl2O4 has two polymorphs: monoclinic symmetry that is stable at temperatures below 650oC and hexagonal symmetry that is stable above this temperature. Monoclinic phase shows luminescent properties. However, there is no clear agreement on the emission of the hexagonal structure. By molten salt, it is possible to stabilize the hexagonal phase of SrAl2O4 employing an excess of Al2O3 (Al2O3/SrO: 2) and γ-Al2O3 as a precursor. The existence of nanometric crystalline domains with lower size (≤20 nm) allows the stabilization of the hexagonal phase. Moreover, it has been evidenced that the hexagonal polymorph exhibits photoluminescent response. To sum up, the design of nanostructured SrAl2O4:Eu2+, Dy3+ materials allows to obtain different morphologies and as consequence different photoluminescent responses. The reduction of temperature, duration of the thermal treatment and the precursors materials needed imply the decrease of the economic cost of the material. Therefore, the viability, suitability and scalability of the synthesis strategy developed in this work to process SrAl2O4:Eu2+, Dy3+ are demonstrated.