Research Project

Shape Stability of Nanoparticles

Over the last three years, the Erlebacher group has been studying the morphological stability (shape) of nanoparticles. The Erlebacher group focuses on the motion of atoms at interfaces and surfaces and understands that in many environments the static picture of nanoparticles is wildly inaccurate.

Over the last three years, the Erlebacher group has been studying the morphological stability (shape) of nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are tiny crystals of atoms only tens of atoms in diameter, and are used in a broad range of technologies, from catalysis to pigments. A typical picture of nanoparticles imagines their shape as static, unchanging with time. The Erlebacher group focuses on the motion of atoms at interfaces and surfaces and understands that in many environments the static picture of nanoparticles is wildly inaccurate.

If the nanoparticle is an alloy, then one of the alloy components might dissolve out, and the remaining components may re-organize into a porous structure that itself may evolve its shape over time. This simple insight has led to the development of a new kind of material – the “nanoporous nanoparticle.”

Beginning with kinetic Monte Carlo simulations1, the group established a computational framework to understand and predict the properties of these materials, which they then experimentally synthesized and characterized2. New materials behavior was predicted by this understanding, including a smallest diameter particle in which one predicts porosity to form3, a result confirmed in collaboration with the Sieradzki group at ASU4; and in collaboration with the Margetis group at the University of Maryland, a prediction was made that so-called “hollow core” nanoparticles are originate from shape fluctuations5, and not bulk diffusion via the Kirkendall effect as had been previously thought. Nanoporous nanoparticles are already being used as the next-generation fuel cell catalysts6, as the ability to fill them with catalytically reaction-enhancing media is very exciting!

References
  1. [J. Erlebacher, Phys. Rev. Lett., 106 (2011), 225504]
  2. [J. Snyder, I. McCue, K. Livi, J. Erlebacher, J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 134 (2012), 8633]
  3. [I. McCue, J. Snyder, X. Li, Q. Chen, K. Sieradzki, J. Erlebacher, Phys. Rev. Lett., 108 (2012), 225503]
  4. [X. Li, Q. Chen, I. McCue, J. Snyder, P. Crozier, J. Erlebacher, K. Sieradzki, Nano Lett., 14 (2014), 2569]
  5. [J. Erlebacher, D. Margetis, Phys. Rev. Lett., 112 (2014), 155505]
  6. [J. Snyder, K. Livi, J. Erlebacher, Adv. Func. Mat., 23 (2013), 5494]
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