Scientists at the Sensitive Instrument Facility of the US Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory have used aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy to monitor atoms as they rearrange in real-time during the synthesis of intermetallic nanoparticles (iNPs). They report their findings in a paper in Chem.

In collaboration with Wenyu Huang, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at Iowa State University and a scientist at Ames Laboratory, the scientists examined nanoparticles made of a platinum-tin alloy. These unique iNPs have applications in energy-efficient fuel conversion and biofuel production, and are one focus of Huang's research group.

"In the formation of these materials, there was a lot of information missing in the middle that is useful to us for optimal catalytic properties tuning" said Huang.

By tracking the movement of metal atoms of platinum and tin during formation of iNPs using advanced microscopy at high temperatures, the scientists discovered intermediate phases that possess their own unique set of catalytic properties.

"Conventional material synthesis focuses on the beginning and the end of a reaction, without much understanding of the pathway. Atomic-level observation of the alloying process led to the discovery of the reaction route," said Lin Zhou, a scientist in Ames Laboratory's Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering. "Once we knew intermediate states in between, we could control the reaction to 'stop' at that point. That opens up a new way to predict and control our discovery of new materials."

This story is adapted from material from Ames Laboratory, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.