The oxide minerals that are present in soils are made up of oxides, hydroxides, oxyhydroxides, and hydrated oxides of Si, Fe, Mn, Al, and Ti. These are the particle components of metal oxides. Metal oxides are nanoparticles that show different toxicity levels in aquatic organisms under a variety of environmental conditions. Temperature, pH, and ionic strength are important when calculating the amount of dissolution for a metal oxide. Since metal oxides have high ionic strengths, a fast aggregation of nanoparticles take place in seawater rather than freshwater. The reactivity of a metal oxide can increase with temperature. Elevated temperatures can increase the rate of dissolution of metal oxide nanoparticles and increase their toxicity.
Metal oxides have the ability to harness the energy of sunlight. It requires tuning the optical and electrical properties of metal oxides at the atomic level or by making a stacked crystal lattice. Semiconductors are an important material regarding metals and insulators. They are categorized by the size of their band gap, which represents the amount of energy required to excite an electron from the occupied shell to the unoccupied shell. Metal oxides provide the means to tailor that gap.
The development of new metal oxides used for specific applications are well within scientific reach. This can result in better battery storage, fuel cells, touch screen technology and all types of computer switches. But while metal conductors are very good at electron conduction, they are very poor “hole” conductors. Holes are the absence of electrons. To utilize the metal oxides full potential, hole conducting metal oxides are required. Students at Binghamton University have begun studying layered metal oxides. These layered metal oxides improve the performance while using and environmentally harmless method.
Researchers have also learned how to mass produce these tiny mechanical devices which contain metal oxides. These devices are called nanoelectromechanical resonators, which contain a tiny beam of silicon that vibrates when voltage is applied. These new devices are produced with almost 100% yield, meaning all of them function nearly perfectly.