From PNNL Lab: “Seeing a Common Catalyst with New Eyes”

Chemical imaging microscope shows corrugated gamma-alumina surface
January 2013
Suraiya Farukhi
Christine Sharp

Results: Neither smooth nor disordered, gamma-alumina nanoparticles are corrugated with tiny pores inside, according to scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Using a powerful transmission electron microscope, the team obtained ultrahigh-resolution images and chemical data about the particle’s surface. They found that the particles were covered with ridges made from a more open, yet symmetrical, arrangement of atoms. The open arrangement on the surfaces, notated as (110), covers 70% of the nanoparticle.

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The surface of the plate-like particles is far from smooth, according to a new transmission electron microscopy study conducted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the FEI Company.

By understanding the structure and function of tiny gamma-alumina particles, scientists are taking crucial steps to optimizing and realizing new useful properties for these materials. ‘If we can learn about the surfaces, then we can tailor them and make them more efficient in catalytic applications,’ said Dr. Libor Kovarik, who led the imaging study as part of PNNL’s Chemical Imaging Initiative.

Why It Matters: Reducing refineries’ energy demands or car and truck emissions requires efficient catalysts on durable support materials. The supporting material must withstand severe temperature and pressure changes. Gamma-alumina has been studied extensively, but its atomic arrangement has not been established because of the challenge of getting a detailed view of this complex material. Accurately describing the atomic structure is crucial for understanding and taking advantage of the best properties of gamma-alumina.

‘Catalytic research demands this type of state-of-the-art chemical imaging research,’ said Dr. Charles Peden, a heterogeneous catalysis scientist who worked on the study, and an Associate Director of PNNL’s Institute for Integrated Catalysis. ‘Dr. Kovarik’s outstanding new images from this powerhouse microscope have yielded unprecedented new information about a catalyst material of enormous practical utility.'”

See the full article here.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is one of the United States Department of Energy National Laboratories, managed by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The main campus of the laboratory is in Richland, Washington.

PNNL scientists conduct basic and applied research and development to strengthen U.S. scientific foundations for fundamental research and innovation; prevent and counter acts of terrorism through applied research in information analysis, cyber security, and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction; increase the U.S. energy capacity and reduce dependence on imported oil; and reduce the effects of human activity on the environment. PNNL has been operated by Battelle Memorial Institute since 1965.

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