The precipitation and growth of copper nanoparticles in an optically transparent aluminosilicate glass matrix was investigated. The size of particles in this heterophase glass-based composite was modified in a controlled manner by isothermal heat treatments. A multitechnique approach, consisting of Raman scattering spectroscopy, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction technique, and optical absorption spectroscopy, has been used to study the nucleation and crystallization processes. Optical absorption spectroscopy revealed the presence of intense absorption bands attributed to oscillations of free electrons, known as the surface-plasmon resonance band of copper particles, and confirmed a gradual increase of the particles' mean size and density with annealing time. The Raman scattering on acoustical phonons from Cu quantum dots in the glass matrix measured for off-resonance conditions demonstrated the presence of intense, inhomogeneously broadened peaks that have been assigned to the confined acoustic eigenmodes of copper nanoparticles. The particle-size dependence of the acoustic peak energies and the relation between the size distribution and bandwidths of these peaks were derived. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy was used to monitor the nucleation of the nanoparticles and to estimate their mean size.
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