Fuel cell research has achieved tremendous progress recently, shaping a technology that holds pivotal scientific relevance and industrial appreciation.

In this research, which was the cover story for ChemCatChem, researchers used Fusion to couple electron microscopy with in situ heating, allowing the study of phase transformation on the single-nanoparticle level. This setup was used to study disorder-to-order transformation of Pt-Fe alloy nanoparticles, a material of great interest to fuel-cell electro catalysis and ultra-high density information storage.

Atomic resolution EDS of nanoparticle
Atomic resolution EDS of nanoparticle. Image courtesy Gianluigi Botton, McMaster University


In contrast to earlier reports, this research shows that Fe segregates towards the particle surface (instead of Pt) during annealing and forms a Fe-rich FeO outer shell over the alloy core. By combining both ex situ and in situ approaches to probe the interplay between ordering and surface-segregation phenomena, the results show that the surface segregation of Fe precedes the ordering process and affects the ordered phase evolution dramatically.

While the findings provide interesting perspectives toward a controlled phase evolution of Pt-Fe nanoalloys, the characterization methodologies are general and should prove useful to probing a wide-range of nanomaterials.

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