Visualizing the Cu/Cu2O interface transition in nanoparticles with environmental scanning transmission electron microscopy

Alec P. Lagrow, Michael R. Ward, David C. Lloyd, Pratibha L. Gai, Edward D. Boyes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the oxidation and reduction mechanisms of catalytically active transition metal nanoparticles is important to improve their application in a variety of chemical processes. In nanocatalysis the nanoparticles can undergo oxidation or reduction in situ, and thus the redox species are not what are observed before and after reactions. We have used the novel environmental scanning transmission electron microscope (ESTEM) with 0.1 nm resolution in systematic studies of complex dynamic oxidation and reduction Mechanisms of copper nanoparticles. The oxidation of copper has previously been reported to be dependent on its crystallography and its interaction with the substrate. By following the dynamic oxidation process in situ in real time with high-angle annular dark-field imaging in the ESTEM, we use conditions ideal to track the oxidation front as it progresses across a copper nanoparticle by following the changes in the atomic number (Z) contrast with time. The oxidation occurs via the nucleation of the oxide phase (Cu20) from one area of the nanoparticle which then progresses unidirectionally across the particle, with the Cu-to-Cu20 interface having a relationship of Cu{111}//Cu20{111}. The oxidation kinetics are related to the temperature and oxygen pressure. When the process is reversed in hydrogen, the reduction process is observed to be similar to the oxidation, with the same crystallographic relationship between the two phases. The dynamic observations provide unique insights into redox mechanisms which are important to understanding and controlling the oxidation and reduction of copper-based nanoparticles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-185
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number1
Early online date12 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2017

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