Thermal decomposition of iron-oleate complexes in the presence of high boiling point solvents remains the preferred route for the production of high quality iron oxide nanoparticles with a good control over their size, morphology, and magnetic properties. However, a major limitation of this synthesis route is that the end product contains a large amount of organic impurities that adhere strongly to the particles. The cleaning process takes several days to a week, and less than 20% of the nanoparticle product is extracted. While the final product is of very high quality, this process is not environmentally friendly, and the resultant product (superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles or SPIONS) is extremely expensive.
RMIT University has developed a proprietary technology by which, within less than 30 minutes, they can purify these iron oxide nanoparticles with over 80% yields while using over 99% less solvent compared to traditional purification routes.