In view of the important need to generate well-dispersed inorganic nanostructures in various solvents, we have explored the dispersion of nanostructures of metal oxides such as TiO2, Fe3O4 and ZnO in solvents of differing polarity in the presence of several surfactants. The solvents used are water, dimethylformamide (DMF) and toluene. The surfactant-solvent combinations yielding the best dispersions are reported alongwith some of the characteristics of the nanostructures in the dispersions. The surfactants which dispersed TiO2 nanowires in water were polyethylene oxide (PEO), Triton X-100 (TX-100), polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and sodium bis(2-ethylhexyl) sulphosuccinate (AOT). TiO2 nanoparticles could also be dispersed with AOT and PEO in water, and with AOT in toluene. In DMF, PVA, PEO and TX-100 were found to be effective, while in toluene, only AOT gave good dispersions. Fe3O4 nanoparticles were held for long periods of time in water by PEO, AOT, PVA and polyethylene glycol (PEG), and by AOT in toluene. In the case of ZnO nanowires, the best surfactant-solvent combinations were found to be, PEO, sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS) and AOT in water and AOT, PEG, PVA, PEO and TX-100 in DMF. In toluene, stable dispersions of ZnO nanowires were obtained with PEO. We have also been able to disperse oxide nanostructures in non-polar solvents by employing a hydrophobic silane coating on the surface.
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