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Structure and Dynamics of Applied Nanomaterials banner image

Structure and Dynamics of Applied Nanomaterials

X-rays and electrons join forces to map catalytic reactions in real time

x-rays By using a miniature chemical reactor, we have measured how platinum catalysts change their size and shape during the conversion of ethylene to ethane, a common industrial reaction. Taking the data in the exact same reaction conditions allowed nanoscale images and average spectroscopic results to be directly correlated. This made it possible to track changes in catalysts size throughout the reaction sequence, from single atomic clusters to larger agglomerates.

In the past, researchers imaged catalysts either before a reaction had started or after it finished. This new approach allows researchers to understand how catalysts change during the actual reaction. This information is critical to designing new materials that function more efficiently.

Electron microscopy was performed using the CFN’s aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope. X-ray absorption studies were performed at Beamline X27A at the NSLS

Y. Li, D. Zakharov, S. Zhao, R. Tappero, U. Jung, A. Elsen, Ph. Baumann, R. G. Nuzzo, E. A. Stach, A. I. Frenkel
Complex structural dynamics of nanocatalysts revealed in operando conditions by correlated imaging and spectroscopy probes Nature Commun. 6, 7583 (2015)