Date of Award

Fall 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Oana Malis

Committee Chair

Oana Malis

Committee Member 1

Erica Carlson

Committee Member 2

Ephraim Fischbach

Committee Member 3

Stephen M. Durbin


Bimetallic and trimetallic alloy nanoparticles have enhanced catalytic activities due to their unique structural properties. Using in situ time-resolved synchrotron based x-ray diffraction, we investigated the structural properties of nanoscale catalysts undergoing various heat treatments. Thermal treatment brings about changes in particle size, morphology, dispersion of metals on support, alloying, surface electronic properties, etc. First, the mechanisms of coalescence and grain growth in PtNiCo nanoparticles supported on planar silica on silicon were examined in detail in the temperature range 400-900°C. The sintering process in PtNiCo nanoparticles was found to be accompanied by lattice contraction and L10chemical ordering. The mass transport involved in sintering is attributed to grain boundary diffusion and its corresponding activation energy is estimated from the data analysis. ^ Nanoscale alloying and phase transformations in physical mixtures of Pd and Cu ultrafine nanoparticles were also investigated in real time with in situ synchrotron based x-ray diffraction complemented by ex situ high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. PdCu nanoparticles are interesting because they are found to be more efficient as catalysts in ethanol oxidation reaction (EOR) than monometallic Pd catalysts. The combination of metal support interaction and reactive/non-reactive environment was found to determine the thermal evolution and ultimate structure of this binary system. The composition of the as prepared Pd:Cu mixture in this study was 34% Pd and 66% Cu. At 300°C, the nanoparticles supported on silica and carbon black intermix to form a chemically ordered CsCl-type (B2) alloy phase. The B2 phase transforms into a disordered fcc alloy at higher temperature (>450°C). The alloy nanoparticles supported on silica and carbon black are homogeneous in volume, but evidence was found of Pd surface enrichment. In sharp contrast, when supported on alumina, the two metals segregated at 300°C to produce almost pure fcc Cu and Pd phases. Upon further annealing of the mixture on alumina above 600°C, the two metals interdiffused, forming two distinct disordered alloys of compositions 30% and 90% Pd. The annealing atmosphere also plays a major role in the structural evolution of these bimetallic nanoparticles. The nanoparticles annealed in forming gas are larger than the nanoparticles annealed in helium due to reduction of the surface oxides that promotes coalescence and sintering. ^ The nanoscale composition and structure of alloy catalysts affect heterogeneous catalysis. We also studied Pd:Cu nanoparticle mixtures of different compositions. In Pd:Cu of composition ratio 1:1, ordered B2 phase is formed during annealing at 450C. During the ramped annealing from 450°C to 750°C, the B2 phase transforms into two different alloys, one alloy rich in copper and the other rich in Pd. This structural evolution is different from that of Pd-Cu system in bulk. In the 3:1 composition, the B2 phase dominates in the isothermal anneal at 450C but a disordered alloy fcc phase is also formed. On annealing to 750°C, the disordered fcc phase grows at the expense of the B2 phase. These findings have important applications for the thermal activation of Pd-Cu nanocatalysts for EOR reactions.