Element-specific anisotropic growth of shaped platinum alloy nanocrystals

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Science  19 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6216, pp. 1502-1506
DOI: 10.1126/science.1261212

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Morphological shape in chemistry and biology owes its existence to anisotropic growth and is closely coupled to distinct functionality. Although much is known about the principal growth mechanisms of monometallic shaped nanocrystals, the anisotropic growth of shaped alloy nanocrystals is still poorly understood. Using aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy, we reveal an element-specific anisotropic growth mechanism of platinum (Pt) bimetallic nano-octahedra where compositional anisotropy couples to geometric anisotropy. A Pt-rich phase evolves into precursor nanohexapods, followed by a slower step-induced deposition of an M-rich (M = Ni, Co, etc.) phase at the concave hexapod surface forming the octahedral facets. Our finding explains earlier reports on unusual compositional segregations and chemical degradation pathways of bimetallic polyhedral catalysts and may aid rational synthesis of shaped alloy catalysts with desired compositional patterns and properties.

Nanoparticle growth starts at the edges

The high activity of precious metals such as platinum for reactions that occur in fuel cells can be enhanced by alloying with metals such as nickel and cobalt to form shaped nanoparticles, where platinum is concentrated at the corner and edge sites. Gan et al. used a combination of high-resolution imaging and modeling to follow the formation of octadedral nanoparticles of these alloys with increasing growth times. A platinum-rich phase with an extended morphology forms initially and becomes the edges and corners for the particles, and the alloying metals deposit to fill in the facets.

Science, this issue p. 1502

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