A method of synthesizing silica nanoparticles. The method includes hydrolyzing a silica precursor to form a plurality of monomers, each monomer of the plurality comprising a microwave reactive silicon species. The plurality of monomers is irradiated by an energy source configured to generate microwave frequency energy. Irradiation cases the plurality of monomers polymerize into a silica nanoparticle.
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 The invention described herein may be manufactured and used by or for the Government of the United States for all governmental purposes without the payment of any royalty.
 This research was supported, in part, by an appointment to the Postgraduate Research Participation Program at the Air Force Research Laboratory, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Air Force Research Laboratory, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Airbase Technologies Division (AFRL/RXQ).