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High-Temperature Magnetism as a Probe for Structural and Compositional Uniformity in Ligand-Capped Magnetite Nanoparticles.

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To investigate magnetostructural relationships in colloidal magnetite (Fe3O4) nanoparticles (NPs) at high temperature (300-900 K), we measured the temperature dependence of magnetization (M) of oleate-capped magnetite NPs ca. 20 nm in size. Magnetometry revealed an unusual irreversible high-temperature dependence of M for these NPs, with dip and loop features observed during heating-cooling cycles. Detailed characterizations of as-synthesized and annealed Fe3O4 NPs as well as reference ligand-free Fe3O4 NPs indicate that both types of features in M(T) are related to thermal decomposition of the capping ligands. The ligand decomposition upon the initial heating induces a reduction of Fe3+ to Fe2+ and the associated dip in M, leading to more structurally and compositionally uniform magnetite NPs. Having lost the protective ligands, the NPs continually sinter during subsequent heating cycles, resulting in divergent M curves featuring loops. The increase in M with sintering proceeds not only through elimination of a magnetically dead layer on the particle surface, as a result of a decrease in specific surface area with increasing size, but also through an uncommonly invoked effect resulting from a significant change in Fe3+/Fe2+ ratio with heat treatment. The interpretation of irreversible features in M(T) indicates that reversible M(T) behavior, conversely, can be expected only for ligand-free, structurally and compositionally uniform magnetite NPs, suggesting a general applicability of high-temperature M(T) measurements as an analytical method for probing the structure and composition of magnetic nanomaterials.

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