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Gaining Control over Radiolytic Synthesis of Uniform Sub-3-nanometer Palladium Nanoparticles: Use of Aromatic Liquids in the Electron Microscope

Abellan, Patricia, Parent, Lucas R., Al Hasan, Naila, Park, Chiwoo, Arslan, Ilke, Karim, Ayman M., Evans, James E., Browning, Nigel D.
Langmuir 2016 v.32 no.6 pp. 1468-1477
X-radiation, additives, catalysts, catalytic activity, free radicals, growth models, hydrogen, irradiation, liquids, nanoparticles, palladium, reducing agents, solvents, toluene, transmission electron microscopy
Synthesizing nanomaterials of uniform shape and size is of critical importance to access and manipulate the novel structure–property relationships arising at the nanoscale, such as catalytic activity. In this work, we synthesize Pd nanoparticles with well-controlled size in the sub-3 nm range using scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) in combination with an in situ liquid stage. We use an aromatic hydrocarbon (toluene) as a solvent that is very resistant to high-energy electron irradiation, which creates a net reducing environment without the need for additives to scavenge oxidizing radicals. The primary reducing species is molecular hydrogen, which is a widely used reductant in the synthesis of supported metal catalysts. We propose a mechanism of particle formation based on the effect of tri-n-octylphosphine (TOP) on size stabilization, relatively low production of radicals, and autocatalytic reduction of Pd(II) compounds. We combine in situ STEM results with insights from in situ small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) from alcohol-based synthesis, having similar reduction potential, in a customized microfluidic device as well as ex situ bulk experiments. This has allowed us to develop a fundamental growth model for the synthesis of size-stabilized Pd nanoparticles and demonstrate the utility of correlating different in situ and ex situ characterization techniques to understand, and ultimately control, metal nanostructure synthesis.