Transition metal nanomaterials are used to catalyze many chemical reactions, including those key to environmental, medicinal, and petrochemical fields. Improving their catalytic properties and lifetime would have significant economic and environmental rewards. Potentially expedient options to make such advancements are to alter the shape, size, or composition of transition metal nanocatalysts.
This work investigates the relationships between structure and catalytic properties of synthesized Au, Pd-on-Au, and Au-enzyme model transition metal nanocatalysts. Au and Pd-on-Au nanomaterials were studied due to their wide-spread application and structure-dependent electronic and geometric properties. The goal of this thesis is to contribute design procedures and synthesis methods that enable the preparation of more efficient transition metal nanocatalysts.
The influence of the size and composition of Pd-on-Au nanoparticles (NPs) was systematically investigated and each was found to affect the catalyst’s surface structure and catalytic properties. The catalytic hydrodechlorination of trichloroethene and reduction of 4-nitrophenol by Pd-on-Au nanoparticles were investigated as these reactions are useful for environmental and pharmaceutical synthesis applications, respectively. Structural characterization revealed that the dispersion and oxidation state of surface Pd atoms are controlled by the Au particle size and concentration of Pd. These structural changes are correlated with observed Pd-on-Au NP activities for both probe reactions, providing new insight into the structure-activity relationships of bimetallic nanocatalysts.
Using the structure-dependent electronic properties of Au NPs, a new type of light-triggered biocatalyst was prepared and used to remotely control a model biochemical reaction. This biocatalyst consists of a model thermophilic glucokinase enzyme covalently attached to the surface of Au nanorods. The rod-like shape of the Au nanoparticles made the thermophilic-enzyme complexes responsive to near infrared electromagnetic radiation, which is absorbed minimally by biological tissues. When enzyme-Au nanorod complexes are illuminated with a near-infrared laser, thermal energy is generated which activates the thermophilic enzyme. Enzyme-Au nanorod complexes encapsulated in calcium alginate are reusable and stable for several days, making them viable for industrial applications.
Lastly, highly versatile Au nanoparticles with diameters of ~3-12 nm were prepared using carbon monoxide (CO) to reduce a Au salt precursor onto preformed catalytic Au particles. Compared to other reducing agents used to generate metallic NPs, CO can be used at room temperature and its oxidized form does not interfere with the colloidal stability of NPs suspended in water. Controlled synthesis of different sized particles was verified through detailed ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy, small angle X-ray scattering, and transmission electron microscopy measurements. This synthesis method should be extendable to other monometallic and multimetallic compositions and shapes, and can be improved by using preformed particles with a narrower size distribution.