|Scientists at the Sensitive Instrument Facility of the Ames Laboratory owned by thr US Dept. of Energy saw real-time atom formation / Photo by: U.S. Department of Energy via Flickr|
Scientists at the Sensitive Instrument Facility of the US Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory successfully caught real-time atom formation monitoring while employing aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy as the intermetallic nanoparticles (iNPs) undergo synthesis.
Wenyu Huang, a chemistry associate professor at Iowa State University, and a scientist at Ames Laboratory worked together in examining nanoparticles made from a platinum-tin alloy in a research titled "Toward Phase and Catalysis Control: Tracking the Formation of Intermetallic Nanoparticles at Atomic Scale."
According to Science Daily, the unique iNPs can be applied in an energy-efficient conversion of fuel and production of biofuel. These nanoparticles are also among the focused elements 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," the associate professor said.
The group found intermediate phases that have their own distinguishable set of catalytic properties. They did so by tracking the motion of metal atoms of platinum and tin as the iNPs formed with the use of advanced microscopy at high temperatures, Science Daily explained.
It added that Lin Zhou, the Ames Lab scientist, said conventional material synthesis is concentrated on the start and the end of reaction—with no sufficient understanding of the route—and the observation of the alloying process at the atomic level resulted in the discovery of that reaction pathway.
"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," Zhou explained.
Further discussion of the research is found in their study, which was authored by Tao Ma, Shuai Wang, Minda Chen, Raghu Maligal-Ganesh, Lin-Lin Wang, Duane D. Johnson, Matthew J. Kramer, Huang, and Zhou. The paper is published in the journal Chem.