Microwave irradiation was shown to be an effective energy source for the rapid decomposition of organic metal salts (such as silver acetate) in a solid mixture with various carbon and noncarbon substrates under completely solvent-free conditions. The rapid and local Joule heating of microwave absorbing substrates (i.e., carbon-based) resulted in the instantaneous formation of metal and metal oxide nanoparticles on the substrate surfaces within seconds of microwave exposure. Other less absorbing substrates (such as hexagonal boron nitride) required longer exposure times for the salt decomposition to occur. Details of the effects of microwave reaction time, temperature, power, and other experimental parameters were investigated and discussed. The solvent-free microwave method was shown to be widely applicable to various organic metal salts with different substrates including single- and multiwalled carbon nanotubes, graphene, expanded graphite, hexagonal boron nitride and silica–alumina particles, forming substrate-supported metal (e.g., Ag, Au, Co, Ni, Pd, Pt) or metal oxide (e.g., Fe3O4, MnO, TiO2) nanoparticles in high yields within short duration of microwave irradiation. The method was also successfully applied to large structural substrates such as nanotube yarns, further suggesting its application potential and versatility. To demonstrate one potential application, we successfully used both carbon nanotube powder and yarn samples decorated with Ag nanoparticles prepared via the above method to improve data acquisition in surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy.
carbon nanotubes; graphene; microwave; nanohybrids; SERS; solvent-free