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Home > Press > When a good nanoparticle goes bad: Understanding how nanoparticles change form may help solve energy needs

Nanoscale metal particles naturally have a wide variety of shapes and sizes and chemists long suspected that some particles work much better than others when it comes to catalyzing chemical processes. Researchers at Cornell University recently confirmed the hypothesis and discovered that some nanoparticles randomly change from good particles to bad particles.

Credit: Courtesy of Cornell University
Nanoscale metal particles naturally have a wide variety of shapes and sizes and chemists long suspected that some particles work much better than others when it comes to catalyzing chemical processes. Researchers at Cornell University recently confirmed the hypothesis and discovered that some nanoparticles randomly change from good particles to bad particles.

Credit: Courtesy of Cornell University

Abstract:
Researchers at Cornell University recently made a major breakthrough when they invented a method to test and demonstrate a long-held hypothesis that some very, very small metal particles work much better than others in various chemical processes such as converting chemical energy to electricity in fuel cells or reducing automobile pollution.

When a good nanoparticle goes bad: Understanding how nanoparticles change form may help solve energy needs

Arlington, VA | Posted on November 10th, 2008

The breakthrough, reported in this week's edition of the journal Nature Materials, also came with a surprise. By devising a way to watch individual molecules react with a single nanoscale particle of gold in real time, researchers confirmed that some gold particles are better at increasing the rate of a chemical reaction than others, but they also found that a good catalyst sometimes spontaneously turns bad.

Understanding why these particles change and how to stabilize the "good" particles may lead to solutions for a wide range of problems such as the current global energy challenge.

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About National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $6.06 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to over 1,900 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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Contacts:
Bobbie Mixon

703-292-8485

Program Contacts
Rama Bansil
NSF
(703) 292-8562


Z. Charles Ying
NSF
(703) 292-8428


Thomas P. Rieker
NSF
(703) 292-4914


Principal Investigators
Peng Chen
Cornell University
(607) 254-8533

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