Researchers image individual atoms in a living catalytic reaction

Jul 12, 2013

Groundbreaking new electron microscopy technology developed at the York JEOL Nanocentre at the University of York is allowing researchers to observe and analyse single atoms, small clusters and nanoparticles in dynamic in-situ experiments for the first time.

The influential work being carried out at York is opening up striking new opportunities for observing and understanding the role of atoms in reactions in many areas of the physical sciences. It also has important implications for and .

So far, observing reacting atoms has been difficult. When studying the reactions at the catalyst surface, scientists usually have to look into idealised systems under rather than examining the reality of an industrial catalytic process in a gas environment.

However, in a world first, the Directors of the York JEOL Nanocentre, Professor Ed Boyes and Professor Pratibha Gai, have developed in-situ aberration corrected environmental scanning technology (in-situ AC-ESTEM) for catalyst reaction studies in realistic reaction conditions.

With the new technology it is now possible to observe and analyse single atoms, small clusters and in dynamic in-situ experiments with controlled gas reaction environments at initial operating temperatures of up to 500?C under transient reaction conditions.

The seminal research carried out entirely at the York JEOL Nanocentre - a major long-term collaboration between the University's Departments of Chemistry, Physics and Electronics, the European Union, Yorkshire Forward and leading electron optics manufacturer JEOL - is reported in Annalen der Physik (Berlin).

Professor Gai, Co-Director of the York JEOL Nanocentre and Professor of Electron Microscopy with Chairs in York's Departments of Chemistry and Physics, said: "Our research opens up exciting new opportunities for observing and studying reacting atoms, the fundamental basic building blocks of matter, in many reactions and is especially important for the development of new medicines and new energy sources."

The team of York scientists, which includes Michael Ward and Dr Leonardi Lari, has successfully imaged individual platinum atoms on carbon supports in a reacting catalyst under controlled atmosphere and temperature conditions.

Professor Boyes, Co-Director of York JEOL Nanocentre, with Chairs in York's Departments of Physics and Electronics, said: "Platinum on carbon supports is important in many applications in the chemical industry including in energy sources such as fuel cells and is an informative model system more generally."

The work was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Explore further: Environmental Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy enables more realistic catalyst reaction studies

More information: The article "ESTEM imaging of single atoms under controlled temperature and gas environment conditions in catalyst reaction studies" appears in the June edition of Annalen der Physik (Berlin) and is featured on the front cover. Ann. Phys. (Berlin) 525(6), 423-429 (2013); DOI: 10.1002/andp.201300068. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/andp.201300068/abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The World's Smallest Spontaneous Atomic Valentine

Feb 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Palladium atoms placed on a carbon base spontaneously formed into an 8 nanometer heart at the University of Birmingham’s Nanoscale Physics Research Laboratory this week. Just in time for ...

Recommended for you

Making 'bucky-balls' in spin-out's sights

11 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —A new Oxford spin-out firm is targeting the difficult challenge of manufacturing fullerenes, known as 'bucky-balls' because of their spherical shape, a type of carbon nanomaterial which, like ...

Polymer microparticles could help verify goods

Apr 13, 2014

Some 2 to 5 percent of all international trade involves counterfeit goods, according to a 2013 United Nations report. These illicit products—which include electronics, automotive and aircraft parts, pharmaceuticals, ...

New light on novel additive manufacturing approach

Apr 11, 2014

(Phys.org) —For nearly a century, electrophoretic deposition (EPD) has been used as a method of coating material by depositing particles of various substances onto the surfaces of various manufactured items. ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Shiny quantum dots brighten future of solar cells

(Phys.org) —A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum-dot work by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers in collaboration with scientists from University ...

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.