The Nano Scale

  • Particles can be placed into one of three categories according to their diameter which are coarse, fine and nano particles.

Coarse, Fine & Nano Particle Table, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes

The diameter in nanometres used to classify particles

  • Nanoparticles are between 1 and 100 nanometres in size and usually contain only a few hundred atoms.
  • Atoms and simple molecules are around 100 times smaller than this.
  • Nanoparticles are much smaller than fine particles which have diameters of between 100 and 2500 nm.
  • The research into the production and application of nanoparticles is called nanoscience.

Nanoparticle Scale, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes

Diagram showing the size of nanoparticles relative to other objects and substances

Surface to Volume Ratio

  • Nanoparticles have different properties than the bulk chemicals from which they are made.
  • Fullerenes for example, which are nanoparticles made of carbon, behave very differently to larger compounds of carbon.
  • One of the most interesting features of nanoparticles is their very high surface area to volume ratio.
  • As particles decrease in size, their surface area increases in relation to their volume.
  • The surface area to volume ratio is an important feature in catalysis and surface chemistry .
  • The higher the ratio then the more surface area is available for reaction, hence the better the catalyst.
  • The ratio is calculated using the following formula:

Surface Area - Volume Formula Triangle, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes

Formula triangle for calculating the surface area – volume ratio

A scientist develops two nanoparticles of different shapes and sizes. One is cube shaped and has sides of 8 nm and the other is spherical shaped and has a diameter of 6 nm. Determine which nanoparticle would make the most effective catalyst.

For the Cube

A cube has six faces, so the surface area = 6 x 8 x 8 = 384 nm2

Volume = 8 x 8 x 8 = 512 nm3

Surface area to volume ratio = 384 ÷ 512 = 0.75

For the Sphere

Surface area = 4πr2 = (4)(3.14)(32) = 113.04 nm2

Volume = 4/3 πr3 = 4/3 x 3.14 x 33 = 112.75 nm3

Surface area to volume ratio = 113.04 ÷ 112.75 = 1.00

The sphere has a higher surface area to volume ratio than the cube hence it would be the more effective catalyst.

AQA GCSE Chemistry Notes

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Morgan Curtin Chemistry

Author: Morgan

Morgan’s passion for the Periodic Table begun on his 10th birthday when he received his first Chemistry set. After studying the subject at university he went on to become a fully fledged Chemistry teacher, and now works in an international school in Madrid! In his spare time he helps create our fantastic resources to help you ace your exams.