The main parameters of nanoparticles are their shape, size, and the morphological sub-structure of the substance. Nanoparticles may be presented as an aerosol, a suspension or an emulsion. In the presence of agents (surfactants), the surface and interfacial properties may be modified. Indirectly such agents can stabilise against coagulation or aggregation by conserving particle charge and by modifying the outmost layer of the particle.
Depending on the growth history and the lifetime of a nanoparticle, very complex compositions, possibly with complex mixtures of adsorbates, have to be expected. In the typical history of a combustion nanoparticle, for example, many different agents are prone to condensation on the particle while it cools down and is exposed to different ambient atmospheres. Complex surface chemical processes are to be expected and have been identified only for a small number of particulate model systems. At the nanoparticle - liquid interface, polyelectrolytes have been utilised to modify surface properties and the interactions between particles and their environment.
At some point between the Angstrom level and the micrometre scale, the simple picture of a nanoparticle as a ball or droplet changes. Both physical and chemical properties are derived from atomic and molecular origin in a complex way. For example the electronic and optical properties and the chemical reactivity of small clusters are completely different from the better known property of each component in the bulk or at extended surfaces.
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