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  • 2018-03-29 14:05:20
  • Article ID: 691967

Nanoscale Alloys From Elements Thought to Be Incapable of Mixing

Heat-shock process allows for scaling up production

  • Credit: Jenny Fontaine

    Huang Zhennan (left) and Shahbazian-Yassar

A multi-institutional team of scientists describes a new technique that can meld ions from up to eight different elements to form what are known as high entropy alloyed nanoparticles. The atoms of the elements that make up these particles are distributed evenly throughout and form a single, solid-state crystalline structure — a feat that has never been achieved before with more than three elements. The nanoparticles could have broad applications as catalysts. The findings are published in the journal Science.

Traditionally, materials scientists have not made serious attempts to create materials that contain more than three elements because of the tendency of each elements’ atoms to clump together. Scientists also assumed that such multi-element materials wouldn’t have any valuable real-world applications.

But now, using advanced transmission electron microscopy, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have proven that multiple elements never before thought capable of forming a single material can do just that. The researchers showed that up to eight elements were able to form nanoparticles — tiny spheres no more than 100 nanometers wide — with a homogeneous crystal structure.

“This will really change the way people think about materials that were previously thought to be immiscible,” said Reza Shahbazian-Yassar, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering in the UIC College of Engineering and an author on the paper.

Materials scientists at the University of Maryland, College Park, led by Liangbing Hu, produced the unique nanoparticles, known as high entropy alloys. “The novel high-entropy nanoparticles could be used in a broad range of applications, particularly as catalysts in emerging energy and environmental technologies,” said Hu, associate professor of materials science and engineering.

The Maryland scientists used a two-step process that included a brief heat ‘shock’ followed by rapid cooling to get ions of various elements that normally wouldn’t form alloys to mix and stabilize in crystalline nanoparticles. During the rapid cool down phase, these ions form a single solid crystal that is a uniform, homogenous mixture of multiple elements. “At the atomic scale, the various ions are found one next to another,” said Shahbazian-Yassar. “So, there would be, for example, a gold atom next to a nickel atom, next to a copper atom, next to a platinum atom — resulting in a homogeneous, mixed single-state nanoparticle that looks like a single unique material.”

To confirm the homogeneity of the nanoparticles, Zhennan Huang, a doctoral student in the UIC College of Engineering, and Anmin Nie, a former postdoctoral researcher in Shahbazian-Yassar’s lab, used advanced scanning transmission electron microscopy to image the crystals and identify individual atoms. They were able to determine that at the atomic level, their nanoparticles were made of homogeneous mixtures of different combinations of platinum, cobalt, nickel, copper, iron, palladium and gold. “We were able to provide definitive proof that these nanoparticles didn’t have lumps of a single element, but that each of the component elements were distributed equally throughout the nanoparticle,” said Huang.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University were able to demonstrate one potential use of the nanoparticles. They used them as advanced catalysts for ammonia oxidation, which is a key step in the production of nitric acid. They were able to achieve 100 percent oxidation of ammonia with the particles, proving their ability as useful catalysts.

“But in reality, we really don’t know all the ways these nanoparticles might be used because we’ve never been able to make them before at nanoscale,” said Shahbazian-Yassar. “Materials science textbooks only discuss alloys of maybe three different elements at most, so we are really in novel territory here.”

Yonggang Yao, Steven Lacey, Rohit Jiji Jacob, Hua Xie, Fengjuan Chen, Miles Rehwoldt, Michael Zachariah and Liangbing Hu of the University of Maryland; Pengfei Xie, Tiancheng Pu and Chao Wang of Johns Hopkins University; and Daiwei Yu and Ju Li of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are co-authors on the paper.

This research at UIC was funded by the National Science Foundation.

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Light-Emitting Nanoparticles Could Provide a Safer Way to Image Living Cells

A research team has demonstrated how light-emitting nanoparticles, developed at Berkeley Lab, can be used to see deep in living tissue. Researchers hope they can be made to attach to specific components of cells to serve in an advanced imaging system that can pinpoint even single cancer cells.

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The 1987 Montreal Protocol and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol called for countries around the world to phase out substances that deplete the ozone layer and cause global warming, but many HVAC systems still use synthetic refrigerants that violate those international agreements and inflict environmental damage. Recently, Iranian researchers investigated how natural refrigerants could be used in geothermal heat pumps to reduce energy consumption and operating costs. They report their findings in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

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A new study carried out at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has confirmed that increasing the number of neutrons as compared to protons in the atom's nucleus also increases the average momentum of its protons. The nuclear physics result, which has implications for the dynamics of neutron stars, has been published in the journal Nature.

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Scientists Discover How to Protect Yeast From Damage in Biofuel Production

Some chemicals used to speed up the breakdown of plants for production of biofuels like ethanol are poison to the yeasts that turn the plant sugars into fuel. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and several Department of Energy laboratories have identified two changes to a single gene that can make the yeast tolerate the pretreatment chemicals.

Lining Up the Surprising Behaviors of a Superconductor with One of the World's Strongest Magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of this material changes in an unusual way under very high magnetic fields--a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperature.


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DOE funds 13 projects under fifth round of HPC4Manufacturing Progaram

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), which manages the High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) Program to use supercomputers to advance U.S. manufacturing, today announced the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded nearly $3.8 million for 13 industry projects under the program.

Four Argonne transportation and fuel experts collect Dept. of Energy honors

Four researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have earned Distinguished Achievement awards for helping to reimagine transportation, sustainability and mobility.

From Hurricane Katrina Victim to Presidential Awardee: A SUNO Professor's Award-Winning Mentoring Efforts

Undergraduate students of Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) biology professor Murty Kambhampati come to Brookhaven Lab during the summer to conduct research in natural resource management.

SNS completes full neutron production cycle at record power level

The Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has reached a new milestone by operating a complete neutron production run cycle at 1.3 megawatts. Achieving the record power level with a remarkable 94 percent accelerator beam availability establishes a new baseline of operation as well as a path to operate reliably at higher powers. Increased power offers researchers the ability to conduct faster scientific analyses using neutrons on more types of materials.

Milsmann earns prestigious NSF CAREER Award

Carsten Milsmann, assistant professor in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry at West Virginia University, has earned the National Science Foundation's prestigious CAREER Award for research that could help develop solar energy applications that are more efficient and cheaper to produce.

46th annual SLAC Summer Institute celebrates Standard Model at 50

The event attracted 124 participants and explores the successes and challenges of the theory that describes subatomic particles and fundamental forces.

UW, PNNL to host energy research center focusing on bio-inspired design and assembly

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded an expected $10.75 million, four-year grant to the University of Washington, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and other partner institutions for a new interdisciplinary research center to define the enigmatic rules governing how molecular-scale building blocks assemble into ordered structures & hierarchical materials.

Argonne among 10 recipients of competitive grant for ultrafast science

Argonne has been awarded U.S. Department of Energy funds to probe materials and chemical processes on time scales of a quadrillionth of a second or less.

One cool camera: LSST's cryostat assembly completed

Work on the camera for the future Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) has reached a major milestone with the completion and delivery of the camera's fully integrated cryostat. With 3.2 gigapixels, the LSST camera will be the largest digital camera ever built for ground-based astronomy. It's being assembled at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Risa Wechsler named director of KIPAC

Risa Wechsler has been appointed director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), a joint institute of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. On Sept. 15, she'll take over from Tom Abel, whose five-year term at the helm of the institute is coming to an end.


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Deep Learning Stretches Up to Scientific Supercomputers

Collaboration powers machine learning software that performs data analytics on petabyte-sized data sets in series of successful test runs.

Complex Networks Identify Genes for Biofuel Crops

Systems biology leads the way to exascale computing on Summit supercomputer.

Quantum Computing of an Atomic Nucleus

The first-ever computation of an atomic nucleus, the deuteron, on a quantum chip demonstrates that even today's rudimentary quantum computers can solve nuclear physics questions.

New Approach Yields High-Purity Radium for Medical Applications

Proton-irradiated thorium targets are successfully mined for therapeutic radium isotopes.

Steering Light with Dynamic Lens-on-MEMS

Scientists add active control to design capabilities for new lightweight flat optical devices.

Sugar-Coated Sheets Selectively Target Pathogens

Researchers design self-assembling nanosheets that mimic the surface of cells.

Tracking Down Helium-4's Quarks and Gluons

Scientists obtain the first exclusive measurement of deeply virtual Compton scattering of electrons off helium-4, vital to obtaining an unambiguous 3-D view of quarks and gluons within nuclei.

Predicting Magnetic Explosions: From Plasma Current Sheet Disruption to Fast Magnetic Reconnection

Supercomputer simulations and theoretical analysis shed new light on when and how fast reconnection occurs.

Is Nature Exclusively Left Handed? Using Chilled Atoms to Find Out

Elegant techniques of trapping and polarizing atoms open vistas for beta-decay tests of fundamental symmetries, key to understanding the most basic forces and particles constituting our universe.

As Future Batteries, Hybrid Supercapacitors Are Super-Charged

A new supercapacitor could be a competitive alternative to lithium-ion batteries.


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