Researchers discover new way to design metal nanoparticle catalysts

Feb 22, 2011

Tiny metal nanoparticles are used as catalysts in many reactions, from refining chemicals to producing polymers and biofuels. How well these nanoparticles perform as catalysts for these reactions depend on which of their crystal faces are exposed.

But previous attempts to design these by changing their shape have failed because the structures are unstable and will revert back to their equilibrium shape.

Now, researchers at Northwestern University's Institute for Catalysis in Energy Processing have discovered a new strategy for fabricating in catalysts that promises to enhance the selectivity and yield for a wide range of structure-sensitive catalytic reactions. The team, led by Laurence D. Marks, professor of materials science and engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, discovered that they could design nanoparticles by designing the particle's support structure.

"Instead of trying to engineer the nanoparticles, we've engineered the substrate that the nanoparticle sits on," Marks said. "That changes what faces are exposed." Their results were published in February in the journal .

This solution was a bit of a discovery: the team created the nanoparticle samples, discovered that they didn't change their shape (as the laws of thermodynamics caused previously designed nanoparticles to do), then set out figuring how it worked. It turns out that epitaxy — the relationship between the position of the atoms in the nanoparticle and the position of the atoms on the substrate — was more important to design than previously thought.

The team is currently testing the nanoparticles in a catalytic reactor, and early results look promising, Marks says. The nanoparticles appear to be stable enough to survive the rigors of long-term use as catalysts.

"It opens the door to designing better catalysts," Marks said. "This method could be used with a variety of different metal nanoparticles. It's a new strategy, and it could have a very big impact."

Explore further: Researchers make magnetic graphene

More information: The Nano Letters paper is titled "Oriented Catalytic Platinum Nanoparticles on High Surface Area Strontium Titanate Nanocuboids."

Related Stories

Gold nanoparticles enrich every day products

May 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Durable paint, water purification, faster computers, tougher shoe soles, and lighter and cheaper televisions are all possibilities now that a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) scientist has discovered ...

'There's Gold In Them That Exhausts!'

Aug 30, 2007

A University of Leicester research team is working on a new technique for growing nanoparticles which could have extraordinary implications in electronics, medicine, the measurement of atmospheric air and the cleansing of ...

Gold and silver nano baubles

Dec 03, 2010

They might just be the smallest Christmas tree decorations ever. Tiny spherical particles of gold and silver that are more than 100 million times smaller than the gold and silver baubles used to decorate seasonal fir trees ...

Recommended for you

Researchers use oxides to flip graphene conductivity

13 hours ago

Graphene, a one-atom thick lattice of carbon atoms, is often touted as a revolutionary material that will take the place of silicon at the heart of electronics. The unmatched speed at which it can move electrons, ...

Researchers make magnetic graphene

20 hours ago

Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, has many desirable properties. Magnetism alas is not one of them. Magnetism can be induced in graphene by doping it with magnetic ...

The latest fashion: Graphene edges can be tailor-made

Jan 23, 2015

Theoretical physicists at Rice University are living on the edge as they study the astounding properties of graphene. In a new study, they figure out how researchers can fracture graphene nanoribbons to get ...

Nanotechnology changes behavior of materials

Jan 23, 2015

One of the reasons solar cells are not used more widely is cost—the materials used to make them most efficient are expensive. Engineers are exploring ways to print solar cells from inks, but the devices ...

Gold 'nano-drills'

Jan 22, 2015

Spherical gold particles are able to 'drill' a nano-diameter tunnel in ceramic material when heated. This is an easy and attractive way to equip chips with nanopores for DNA analysis, for example. Nanotechnologists ...

The importance of building small things

Jan 22, 2015

Strong materials, such as concrete, are usually heavy, and lightweight materials, such as rubber (for latex gloves) and paper, are usually weak and susceptible to tearing and damage. Julia R. Greer, professor ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.