Surface modification is widely assumed as a mandatory prerequisite for the real applicability of iron oxide nanoparticles. This is aimed to endow prolonged stability, electrolyte and pH tolerance as well as a desired specific surface chemistry for further functionalization to these materials. Nevertheless, coating processes have negative consequences on the sustainability of nanomaterial production contributing to high costs, heavy environmental impact and difficult scalability. In this view, bare iron oxide nanoparticles (BIONs) are arousing an increasing interest and the properties and advantages of pristine surface chemistry of iron oxide are becoming popular among the scientific community. In the authors’ knowledge, rare efforts were dedicated to the use of BIONs in biomedicine, biotechnology, food industry and environmental remediation. Furthermore, literature lacks examples highlighting the potential of BIONs as platforms for the creation of more complex nanostructured architectures, and emerging properties achievable by the direct manipulation of pristine iron oxide surfaces have been little studied. Based on authors’ background on BIONs, the present review is aimed at providing hints on the future expansion of these nanomaterials emphasizing the opportunities achievable by tuning their pristine surfaces.
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