Skip to Main Content
For decades, plasma processing of materials on the nanoscale has been an underlying enabling technology for many ldquoplanarrdquo technologies, particularly virtually every aspect of modern electronics from integrated-circuit fabrication with nanoscale elements to the newest generation of photovoltaics. However, it is only recent developments that suggest that plasma processing can be used to make ldquoparticulaterdquo structures of value in fields, including catalysis, drug delivery, imaging, higher energy density batteries, and other forms of energy storage. In this paper, the development of the science and technology of one class of plasma production of particulates, namely, aerosol-through-plasma (A-T-P), is reviewed. Various plasma systems, particularly RF and microwave, have been used to create nanoparticles of metals and ceramics, as well as supported metal catalysts. Gradually, the complexity of the nanoparticles, and concomitantly their potential value, has increased. First, unique two-layer particles were generated. These were postprocessed to create unique three-layer nanoscale particles. Also, the technique has been successfully employed to make other high-value materials, including carbon nanotubes, unsupported graphene, and spherical boron nitride. Some interesting plasma science has also emerged from efforts to characterize and map aerosol-containing plasmas. For example, it is clear that even a very low concentration of particles dramatically changes plasma characteristics. Some have also argued that the local-thermodynamic-equilibrium approach is inappropriate to these systems. Instead, it has been suggested that charged- and neutral-species models must be independently developed and allowed to ldquointeractrdquo only in generation terms.