The study was published in Science on-line on May 14.
"There are two ways to make a more effective catalyst," Xia says. "One is to control the size, making it smaller, which gives the catalyst a higher specific surface area on a mass basis. Another is to change the arrangement of atoms on the surface. We did both. You can have a square or hexagonal arrangement for the surface atoms. We chose the hexagonal lattice because people have found that it's twice as good as the square one for the oxygen reduction reaction.
"We're excited by the technique, specifically with the performance of the new catalyst."
Xia says seeded growth has emerged recently as a good technique for precisely controlling the shape and composition of metallic nanostructures prepared in solutions. And it's the only technique that allowed Xia and his collaborators to come up with their unconventional shape.
"When you have something this small, the atoms tend to aggregate and that can reduce the surface area,' Xia says. "A key reason our technique works is the ability to keep the platinum arms fixed. They don't move around. This adds to their stability. We also make sure of the arrangement of atoms on each arm, so we increase the activity."
Xia and his collaborators are exploring the possibility of adding other noble metals such as gold to the bimetallic catalysts, making them trimetallic. Gold has been shown to oxidize carbon monoxide, making for even more robust catalysts that can resist the poisoning by carbon monoxide a reduction byproduct of some fuels.
"Gold should make the catalysts more stable, durable and robust, giving yet another level of control,
|Contact: Younan Xia|
Washington University in St. Louis