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Investigating Particle Size Effects in Catalysis by Applying a Size-Controlled and Surfactant-Free Synthesis of Colloidal Nanoparticles in Alkaline Ethylene Glycol: Case Study of the Oxygen Reduction Reaction on Pt

Quinson, Jonathan; Inaba, Masanori; Neumann, Sarah; Swane, Andreas A.; Bucher, J.; Simonsen, Søren B.; Theil Kuhn, Luise; Kirkensgaard, Jacob J. K.; Jensen, Kirsten M. Ø.; Oezaslan, Mehtap; Kunz, Sebastian; Arenz, Matthias

By 12 March 2019No Comments

ACS Catalysis, 2018, vol 8, 7, pp. 6627-6635



Colloidal platinum nanoparticles are obtained via a surfactant-free polyol process in alkaline ethylene glycol. In this popular synthesis, ethylene glycol functions as solvent and reducing agent. The preparation procedure is known for its reproducibility to obtain 1–2 nm nanoparticles, but at the same time the controlled preparation of larger nanoparticles is challenging. A reliable size control without the use of surfactants is a fundamental yet missing achievement for systematic investigations. In this work it is demonstrated how the molar ratio between NaOH and the platinum precursor determines the final particle size and how this knowledge can be used to prepare and study in a systematic way supported catalysts with defined size and Pt to carbon ratio. Using small-angle X-ray scattering, transmission electron microscopy, infrared spectroscopy, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, pair distribution function, and electrochemical analysis it is shown that when the NaOH/Pt molar ratio is changed from 25 to 3 the Pt nanoparticle size is tuned from 1 to 5 nm. This size range is of interest for various catalytic applications, such as the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). Supporting the nanoparticles onto a high-surface-area carbon, we demonstrate how the particle size effect can be studied while the Pt to carbon ratio is kept constant, an important aspect that in previous studies could not be accomplished.

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