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Clearer look at how iron reacts in the environment
Date:9/7/2012

is study, the X-rays were produced at Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source."

Because iron oxide is a semiconductor, the research team had to develop a way other than an electric charge to jump-start the process. They adapted a pump-probe technique from research in ultrafast science and also used for nanomaterial photovoltaic materials. First, they used laser light to excite a dye molecule sensitized on the surface of the iron to inject an electron into the iron. They used femtosecond optical transient absorption spectroscopy at the Center for Nanoscale Materials to show that the light-initiated electron transfer was extremely fast much faster than the thermally-driven electron hopping they sought to measure. Then they captured different instantaneous snapshots of the rapid electron transfer process by using ultra-short pulses of X-rays like the shutter on a camera, collecting a sequence of X-ray spectra that indicated the location of the electrons on the subnanosecond timescale.

This technique can be used to study all types of electron transfer in nature and in synthesized materials such as nanofilms aimed at making solar cells more efficient.

"This opens up studies with many other semiconductor materials," said Xiaoyi Zhang, a scientist at the APS. "The same technique of using a light-induced electron to initiate chemistry can be applied to studies of solar cells, hydrogen generation, catalysis and electrochemical (battery) energy storage. It can provide new insights into how electrons or energy flow inside materials."

The APS is uniquely situated to undertake this type of study.

"We used two different specialties of the APS," said Karena Chapman, a scientist at the APS. "The APS is a scientific hub for understanding dynamic processes in nanoparticles. As the materials we investigate become more complex, we only completely understand them by combining what we learn from several different techniques
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Contact: Tona Kunz
tkunz@anl.gov
630-252-5560
DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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