nanoparticles, gold, platinum, iron, catalysis, surface science, bimetallic, CO oxidation, surface chemistry


Recent advances in surface science technology have opened new opportunities for atomic scale studies in the field of nanoparticle (NP) catalysis. The 2007 Nobel Prize of Chemistry awarded to Prof. G. Ertl, a pioneer in introducing surface science techniques to the field of heterogeneous catalysis, shows the importance of the field and revealed some of the fundamental processes of how chemical reactions take place at extended surfaces. However, after several decades of intense research, fundamental understanding on the factors that dominate the activity, selectivity, and stability (life-time) of nanoscale catalysts are still not well understood. This dissertation aims to explore the basic processes taking place in NP catalyzed chemical reactions by systematically changing their size, shape, oxide support, and composition, one factor at a time. Low temperature oxidation of CO over gold NPs supported on different metal oxides and carbides (SiO2, TiO2, TiC, etc.) has been used as a model reaction. The fabrication of nanocatalysts with a narrow size and shape distribution is essential for the microscopic understanding of reaction kinetics on complex catalyst systems ("real-world" systems). Our NP synthesis tools are based on self-assembly techniques such as diblock-copolymer encapsulation and nanosphere lithography. The morphological, electronic and chemical properties of these nanocatalysts have been investigated by atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and temperature-programmed desorption (TPD). Chapter 1 describes briefly the basic principles of the instrumentation used within this experimental dissertation. Since most of the state-of-art surface science characterization tools provide ensemble-averaged information, catalyst samples with well defined morphology and structure must be available to be able to extract meaningful information on how size and shape affect the physical and chemical properties of these structures. In chapter 2, the inverse-micelle encapsulation and nanosphere lithography methods used in this dissertation for synthesizing uniformly arranged and narrow size- and shape-selected spherical and triangular NPs are described. Chapter 3 describes morphological changes on individual Au NPs supported on SiO2 as function of the annealing temperature and gaseous environment. In addition, NP mobility is monitored. Chapter 4 explores size-effects on the electronic and catalytic properties of size-selected Au NPs supported on a transition metal carbide, TiC. The effect of interparticle interactions on the reactivity and stability (catalyst lifetime) of Au NPs deposited on TiC is discussed in chapter 5. Size and support effects on the formation and thermal stability of Au2O3, PtO and PtO2 on Au and Pt NPs supported on SiO2, TiO2 and ZrO2 is investigated in chapter 6. Emphasis is given to gaining insight into the role of the NP/support interface and that played by oxygen vacancies on the stability of the above metal oxides. Chapter 7 reports on the formation, thermal stability, and vibrational properties of mono- and bimetallic AuxFe1-x (x = 1, 0.8, 0.5, 0.2, 0) NPs supported on TiO2(110). At the end of the thesis, a brief summary describes the main highlights of this 5-year research program.


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Graduation Date



Roldan Cuenya, Beatriz


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program









Release Date

November 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Physics Commons