Understanding the Thermal Stability of Palladium–Platinum Core–Shell Nanocrystals by In Situ Transmission Electron Microscopy and Density Functional Theory

Madeline Vara, Luke T. Roling, Xue Wang, Ahmed O. Elnabawy, Zachary D. Hood, Miaofang Chi, Manos Mavrikakis, and Younan Xia, 2017

Image courtesy of ACS Nano


Core–shell nanocrystals offer many advantages for heterogeneous catalysis, including precise control over both the surface structure and composition, as well as reduction in loading for rare and costly metals. Although many catalytic processes are operated at elevated temperatures, the adverse impacts of heating on the shape and structure of core–shell nanocrystals are yet to be understood. In this work, we used ex situ heating experiments to demonstrate that Pd@Pt4L core–shell nanoscale cubes and octahedra are promising for catalytic applications at temperatures up to 400 °C. We also used in situ transmission electron microscopy to monitor the thermal stability of the core–shell nanocrystals in real time. Our results demonstrate a facet dependence for the thermal stability in terms of shape and composition. Specifically, the cubes enclosed by {100} facets readily deform shape at a temperature 300 °C lower than that of the octahedral counterparts enclosed by {111} facets. A reversed trend is observed for composition, as alloying between the Pd core and the Pt shell of an octahedron occurs at a temperature 200 °C lower than that for the cubic counterpart. Density functional theory calculations provide atomic-level explanations for the experimentally observed behaviors, demonstrating that the barriers for edge reconstruction determine the relative ease of shape deformation for cubes compared to octahedra. The opposite trend for alloying of the core–shell structure can be attributed to a higher propensity for subsurface Pt vacancy formation in octahedra than in cubes.

Impact Statement

The authors have studied the thermal stability of Pd@Pt4L core−shell nanoscale cubes and octahedra by HAADF-STEM integrated with in situ heating. Their results indicate greater stability in shape for the octahedral nanocrystals but better stability in core−shell structure for their cubic counterparts.