An investigation into bimetallic hollow nanoparticles in catalysis

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Snyder, Brian
El-Sayed, Mostafa A.
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Nanocatalysis, catalysis using particles on the nanoscale, is an emerging field that has tremendous potential. Nanoparticles have different properties than bulk material and can be used in different roles. Macro sized precious metals, for example, are inert, but nanoparticles of them are becoming more widely used as catalysts. Understanding the manner in which these particles work is vital to improving their efficacy. This thesis focuses on two aspects of nanocatalysis. Chapter 1 begins with a brief introduction into nanotechnology and some of the areas in which nanoparticles are different than bulk particles. It then proceeds into an overview of catalysis and nanocatalysis more specifically. Focus is brought to the definitions of the different types of catalysis and how those definitions differ when applied to nanoparticles. Chapter 2 is in finding an inert support structure to more easily assist in recycling the nanoparticles. Polystyrene microspheres were studied and found to prevent platinum nanoparticles from aggregating in solution and possibly aid in recycling of the nanoparticles. These nanoparticles were used in catalysis, aiding in the reduction of 4-nitrophenol in the presence of sodium borohydride. While the rate decreased by a factor of ~ 7 when using the polystyrene, the activation energy of the reaction was unaltered, thus confirming the inactivity of the polystyrene in the reaction. In Chapter 3, nanocatalysis was studied by examining bimetallic hollow nanoparticles with specific attention to the effect of altering the ratios of the two metals. Ten different bimetallic nanocages were tested in an electron transfer reaction between hexacyanoferrate and thiosulfate. Five PtAg nanocages and five PdAg with varying metal ratios were prepared and studied. It was found that while silver cubes immediately precipitate out of solution when combined with thiosulfate, a small amount of either platinum or palladium allows the particles to remain in solution and function as a substantially more effective catalyst. However, as additional Pt was added the activation energy increased. To obtain a better understanding of the catalysis using bimetallic cages, the evolution of these cages was studied as the 2nd metal was added. Initially the particle edge length increased and then slowly decreased back to the size of the template cubes. The increase in edge length suggests of addition of material to the nanoparticles. This indicated the 2nd metal is on the outside of the cage, which was confirmed using UV-Vis spectroscopy and EDS mapping. By understanding how these bimetallic particles evolve, we may be able to manipulate these synthetic methods to more precisely design nanoparticles for catalysis.
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