Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Size matters in nanocrystals' ability to adsorb/release gases

More efficient catalytic converters on autos, improved batteries and more sensitive gas sensors are some of the potential benefits of a new system that can directly measure the manner in which nanocrystals adsorb and release hydrogen and other gases.

The technique, which was developed by Vanderbilt University Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Rizia Bardhan, is described in a paper published online Aug. 4 by the journal Nature Materials.

In the last 30 years, there has been a tremendous amount of research studying nanocrystals – tiny crystals sized between one to 100 nanometers in size (a nanometer is to an inch what an inch is to 400 miles) – because of the expectation that they have unique physical and chemical properties that can be used in a broad range of applications.

One class of applications depends on nanocrystals' ability to grab specific molecules and particles out the air, hold on to them and then release them: a process called adsorption and desorption. Progress in this area has been hindered by limitations in existing methods for measuring the physical and chemical changes that take place in individual nanocrystals during the process. As a result, advances have been achieved by trial-and-error and have been limited to engineered samples and specific geometries.

"Our technique is simple, direct and uses off-the shelf instruments so other researchers should have no difficulty using it," said Bardhan. Collaborators in the development were Vanderbilt Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Cary Pint, Ali Javey from the University of California, Berkeley and Lester Hedges, Stephen Whitelam and Jeffrey Urban from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The method is based on a standard procedure called fluorescence spectroscopy. A laser beam is focused on the target nanocrystals, causing them to fluoresce. As the nanocrystals adsorb the gas molecules, the strength of their fluorescent dims and as they release the gas molecules, it recovers.

"The fluorescence effect is very subtle and very sensitive to differences in nanocrystal size," she explained. "To see it you must use nanocrystals that are uniform in size." That is one reason why the effect wasn't observed before: Fabrication techniques such as ball milling and other wet-chemical approaches that have been widely used produce nanocrystals in a range of different sizes. These differences are enough to mask the effect.

To test their technique, the researchers studied hydrogen gas sensing with nanocrystals made out of palladium. They choose palladium because it is very stable and it readily releases adsorbed hydrogen. They used hydrogen because of the interest in using it as a replacement for gasoline. One of the major technical obstacles to this scenario is developing a safe and cost-effective storage method. A nanocrystal-based metal hydride system is one of the promising approaches under development.

The measurements they made revealed that the size of the nanocrystals have a much stronger effect on the rate that the material can adsorb and release hydrogen and the amount of hydrogen that the material can absorb than previously expected – all key properties for a hydrogen storage system. The smaller the particle size, the faster the material can absorb the gas, the more gas it can absorb and faster it can release it.

"In the past, people thought that the size effect was limited to sizes less than 15 to 20 nanometers, but we found that it extends up to 100 nanometers," said Bardhan.

The researchers also determined that the adsorption/desorption rate was determined by just three factors: pressure, temperature and nanocrystal size. They did not find that additional factors such as defects and strain had a significant effect as previously suggested. Based on this new information, they created a simple computer simulation that can predict the adsorption/desorption rates of various types and size ranges of nanocrystals with a variety of different gases.

"This makes it possible to optimize a wide range of nanocrystal applications, including hydrogen storage systems, catalytic converters, batteries, fuel cells and supercapacitors," Bardhan said.

The research was funded by Department of Energy grants KC0202020 and AC02-05CH11231.

Visit Research News @ Vanderbilt for more research news from Vanderbilt. [Media Note: Vanderbilt has a 24/7 TV and radio studio with a dedicated fiber optic line and ISDN line. Use of the TV studio with Vanderbilt experts is free, except for reserving fiber time.]

David F. Salisbury | Vanderbilt University
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht 3-D-printed structures shrink when heated
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

nachricht From ancient fossils to future cars
21.10.2016 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>