Abstract Low-temperature (180–240 °C) synthesis of nanocrystalline titanium dioxide (TiO 2) by surfactant-free solvothermal route is investigated. Titanium iso-propoxide is used as the precursor and toluene as the solvent. Different precursors to solvent weight ratios have been used for the synthesis of TiO 2 nanoparticles. For the weight ratios 15/100, 25/100 and 35/100 the X-ray diffractograms show the formation of nanocrystalline TiO 2. The X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy studies shows that the product has anatase crystal structure (for temperatures <200 °C) with average particle size below 15 nm. The films deposited by spray deposition method using these nanoparticles show the crystalline and porous nature of the films. The present method of deposition also avoids the post-treatment (sintering) of the films. The nanoparticles thus prepared and the films can be used for gas sensing and biological applications and also as photo-electrodes for dye-sensitized solar cells.