Composition and structure of bimetallic catalyst nanoparticles using advanced electron microscopy

Catalysts containing bimetallic nanoparticles can provide greater activity at lower cost than monometallic systems and provide greater activity and enhanced selectivity for a given chemical reaction.  Combining a cheaper base metal core with a catalytically active precious metal shell reduces the total mass of precious metal required.  It is also found that specific metal ratios and synthesis treatments are required for the chemical boost.  This enhanced activity is not fully explained, with surface segregation of one element, the effect of surface oxidation and/or lattice strain being possibly explanations.  The challenge is that measuring either strain or composition within a nanoparticle is right at the limits of current experimental capabilities, especially as we need methods that can examine many particles to understand the ensemble properties.  This project will make use of state-of-the-art electron microscope technologies for imaging and spectroscopy to determine composition including degree of oxidation and the resulting strain.  The successful candidate would be trained in these methods, and in the computational modelling required to fully interpret the data.  We will work with industrially relevant catalysts and collaborate with theoretical chemistry colleagues to aim to provide explanations for their enhanced activity.  The project would suit someone interested in experiments, data processing and modelling working right at the limits of what can be achieved.  The successful candidate will have either a chemistry, physics or materials science background and be comfortable with both practical experimentation and computation analysis methods. Experience with electron microscopy is a bonus but not a requirement.


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