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Giving Gold Alloys Room to Breathe

Posted on: 06/12/2013
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered a streamlined process of creating uniquely structured gold-indium nanoparticles that combine high stability and great catalytic potential. The new nanostructures might enhance many different commercial and industrial processes, including acting as an efficient material for catalytic converters in cars.

Unlocking gold’s potential as a valuable chemical catalyst generally requires complex synthesis techniques. The process developed at Brookhaven is comparatively simple. By exposing gold-indium alloy nanoparticles to air, ambient oxygen was able to drive an oxidation reaction that converted them into an active core-shell structure.

The Brookhaven researchers were studying oxidation processes through which metals and alloys combine with oxygen when they made the discovery. For this study, they examined alloys of a noble metal and a non-noble metal and found that, once nanoparticles of the metal alloy were exposed to oxygen, highly reactive shells of gold-indium oxide formed across their surfaces. Trapping gold in the amorphous oxide shell retains its catalytic properties and prevents the gold from sintering and becoming inert. The new nanostructures also proved capable of converting oxygen and carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide, demonstrating their activity as a catalyst.

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