On the road to metallic nanoparticles by rational design: bridging the gap between atomic-level theoretical modeling and reality by total scattering experiments.
The extent to which current theoretical modeling alone can reveal real-world metallic nanoparticles (NPs) at the atomic level was scrutinized and demonstrated to be insufficient and how it can be improved by using a pragmatic approach involving straightforward experiments is shown. In particular, 4 to 6 nm in size silica supported Au(100-x)Pd(x) (x = 30, 46 and 58) explored for catalytic applications is characterized structurally by total scattering experiments including high-energy synchrotron X-ray diffraction (XRD) coupled to atomic pair distribution function (PDF) analysis. Atomic-level models for the NPs are built by molecular dynamics simulations based on the archetypal for current theoretical modeling Sutton-Chen (SC) method. Models are matched against independent experimental data and are demonstrated to be inaccurate unless their theoretical foundation, i.e. the SC method, is supplemented with basic yet crucial information on the length and strength of metal-to-metal bonds and, when necessary, structural disorder in the actual NPs studied. An atomic PDF-based approach for accessing such information and implementing it in theoretical modeling is put forward. For completeness, the approach is concisely demonstrated on 15 nm in size water-dispersed Au particles explored for bio-medical applications and 16 nm in size hexane-dispersed Fe48Pd52 particles explored for magnetic applications as well. It is argued that when "tuned up" against experiments relevant to metals and alloys confined to nanoscale dimensions, such as total scattering coupled to atomic PDF analysis, rather than by mere intuition and/or against data for the respective solids, atomic-level theoretical modeling can provide a sound understanding of the synthesis-structure-property relationships in real-world metallic NPs. Ultimately this can help advance nanoscience and technology a step closer to producing metallic NPs by rational design.
Prasai, B; Wilson, AR; Wiley, BJ; Ren, Y; Petkov, V
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