How nanoparticles give electrons away

December 14, 2015, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Researchers have investigated how much electrical charge nanoparticles transfer to their support for the first time. Credit: Sergey Kozlov and Oriol Lamiel

Whether it is in catalytic processes in the chemical industry, environmental catalysis, new types of solar cells or new electronic components, nanoparticles are everywhere in modern production and environmental technologies, where their unique properties ensure efficiency and save resources. The special properties of nanoparticles often arise from a chemical interaction with the support material that they are placed on. Such interactions often change the electronic structure of the nanoparticle because electrical charge is exchanged between the particle and the support.

Working groups led by Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the University of Barcelona have now succeeded in counting the number of elementary charges that are lost by a platinum nanoparticle when it is placed onto a typical oxide . Their work brings the possibility of developing tailor-made nanoparticles a step closer.

One of the main questions that nanoscience researchers have been discussing for some time now is how nanoparticles interact with the support that they are placed on. It is now clear that various physical and chemical factors such as the , the nanostructure and - crucially - their interaction with the support control the properties of nanoparticles. Although this interaction - specifically the transfer of - has already been observed to a great extent, previous studies have not investigated how much charge is transferred and whether there is a relationship between the transfer and the size of the nanoparticle.

In order to measure the electrical charge that is exchanged the international team of researchers from Germany, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic led by Prof. Dr. Jörg Libuda, Professor of Physical Chemistry, and Prof. Dr. Konstantin Neyman, University of Barcelona, prepared an extremely clean and atomically well-defined oxide surface, onto which they placed . Using a highly sensitive detection method at Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste the researchers were able to quantify the effect for the first time.

Looking at particles with various numbers of atoms, from several to many hundred, they counted the number of electrons transferred and showed that the effect is most pronounced for small with around 50 atoms. The magnitude of the effect is surprisingly large: approximately every tenth metal atom loses an electron when the particle is in contact with the oxide. The researchers were also able to use theoretical methods to show how the effect can be controlled, allowing the chemical properties to be adapted to better suit their intended application. This would allow valuable raw materials and energy to be used more efficiently in in the , for example.

Explore further: Platinum and iron oxide working together get the job done

More information: Counting electrons on supported nanoparticles, Nature Materials, DOI: 10.1038/nmat4500

Related Stories

Platinum and iron oxide working together get the job done

September 16, 2015

Scientists at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) have figured out how a platinum catalyst works. Its remarkable properties are not just due to the platinum, the iron-oxide substrate beneath also plays a role.

Doping crystals of nanocrystals

September 24, 2015

Silicon semiconductors form the basis of all modern electronics and microprocessors. Crucial to these applications is the ability to 'dope' the semiconductor; which is to say, by controllably adding impurity atoms to a semiconductor, ...

Pouring fire on fuels at the nanoscale

August 7, 2015

There are no magic bullets for global energy needs. But fuel cells in which electrical energy is harnessed directly from live, self-sustaining chemical reactions promise cheaper alternatives to fossil fuels.

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...

0 comments

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.