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A nano-sized sponge made of electrons
Date:11/12/2013

A new chapter has been opened in our understanding of the chemical activity of nanoparticles says a team of international scientists. Using the X-ray beams of the European Synchrotron ESRF they showed that the electrons absorbed and released by cerium dioxide nanoparticles during chemical reactions behave in a completely different way than previously thought: the electrons are not bound to individual atoms but, like a cloud, distribute themselves over the whole nanoparticle. Inspired by the similarity of its shape, the scientists call this spatial distribution of particles an "electron sponge". The results were published on 12 November in the journal ACS Nano.

The team of scientists was led by Pieter Glatzel from The European Synchrotron (ESRF) in Grenoble (France) and Victor Puntes from the Universit Autnoma of Barcelona, Catalan Institute of Nanotechnologies (Spain). The first author is Jean-Daniel Cafun from the ESRF.

Today, cerium dioxide nanoparticles are widely used in industrial processes and also in consumer products. They are present, for example, in the walls of self-cleaning ovens and act as a hydrocarbon catalyst during the high temperature cleaning process. They are also a hot candidate for the next generation of lithium-ion batteries which will exhibit higher voltages and a greater storage capacity compared to today's energy cells.

The element Cerium is abundant in the Earth's crust and can easily be mined and purified. However, without a thorough understanding of the chemical processes happening on the surface of cerium dioxide nanoparticles, it is impossible to optimise their current and future use. And to address a more complex issue, it is also impossible to assess the limits of their safe use.

Most chemical reactions involve the transfer of an electron from one atom to another. In the past, it was believed that the electrons involved in a chemical reaction on the surface of a nanoparticle were loca
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Contact: Claus Habfast
claus.habfast@esrf.fr
33-666-662-384
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
Source:Eurekalert  

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