Ferrofluids are nanomaterials consisting of magnetic nanoparticles that are dispersed in a carrier fluid. Their physical properties, and hence their field of application are determined by intertwined compositional, structural, and magnetic characteristics, including interparticle magnetic interactions. Magnetic nanoparticles were prepared by thermal decomposition of iron(III) chloride hexahydrate (FeCl3
O) in 2-pyrrolidone, and were then dispersed in two different fluids, water and polyethylene glycol 400 (PEG). A number of experimental techniques (especially, transmission electron microscopy, Mössbauer spectroscopy and superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) magnetometry) were employed to study both the as-prepared nanoparticles and the ferrofluids. We show that, with the adopted synthesis parameters of temperature and FeCl3
relative concentration, nanoparticles are obtained that mainly consist of maghemite and present a high degree of structural disorder and strong spin canting, resulting in a low saturation magnetization (~45 emu/g). A remarkable feature is that the nanoparticles, ultimately due to the presence of 2-pyrrolidone at their surface, are arranged in nanoflower-shape structures, which are substantially stable in water and tend to disaggregate in PEG. The different arrangement of the nanoparticles in the two fluids implies a different strength of dipolar magnetic interactions, as revealed by the analysis of their magnetothermal behavior. The comparison between the magnetic heating capacities of the two ferrofluids demonstrates the possibility of tailoring the performances of the produced nanoparticles by exploiting the interplay with the carrier fluid.
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