From molecules to particles: Quantum-chemical view applied to fumed silica
An extended quantum-chemical study has been performed to examine the flame-generated silica formation at the atomic level. Starting from a set of free molecules, condensation was shown to be a non-barrier and energetically favorable. The coalescence of the formed bare-surface protoparticles can be prevented by particle surface passivation in the course of the hydroxylation reaction. The protoparticle size is determined by a balance of the fusion and hydroxylation/dehydroxylation processes. The main factors responsible for the inherent amorphicity of the fumed silica have been determined.