Ceramic Nanostructured Catalysts

  • Alexander Gilbank

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Catalysis has an effect on almost every aspect of our lives. They are used to help grow the food we eat, clean the water we drink and produce the fuels our civilisation is so dependent upon. Homogeneous catalysts, those in the same phase as the reaction medium, are highly selective as a result of their tuneable nature, for example through changes to ligands in a metal complex. However, their separation from the reaction medium can become a problematic, costly, non-green issue, overcome through the use of heterogeneous catalysts which can be removed and recycled by simple separation techniques such as filtering and sedimentation.A major limitation on understanding the behaviour of heterogeneous catalysts is the presence of different active sites due to different exposed crystal surface, concentration of defects and morphological variations. With such considerations, the first section of this thesis focuses on the synthesis of discrete and well-defined nanostructured materials (ceria and titanate) using a single-step hydrothermal method.Nanostructured ceria with different morphologies (particles, rods and cubes), present a high oxygen storage capacity and thermal stability. Their oxidation catalytic activity was assessed using CO oxidation as a model reaction as a function of their physical and chemical properties, tuned by morphological control at the nanoscale. An inverse relationship is observed between crystallite size and rates of reaction normalised per surface area. Smaller crystallites present a constrained geometry resulting in a higher concentration of defects, highly active catalytically due to their unsatisfied coordination and high surface energy. The surface to bulk oxygen ratio generally increased as the surface area increased, however, ceria nanorods present a higher surface oxygen content than that which would be predicted according to their surface area, likely due to the selective exposure of the (110) and (100) dominating crystal surfaces presenting more facile oxygen atoms in their surface. Additionally a relationship between surface to bulk oxygen ratios and activation energies was also ascribed to the more facile nature of oxygen atoms on these surfaces and their more readily formed oxygen vacancies as a result. This activity is as a result of the formation of oxygen vacancies being the rate-controlling step.The thermal stability of nanostructured ceria (particles, rods and cubes) was also studied to investigate their performance under cyclic high temperature applications. For this, the materials were pre-treated at 1000 °C under different atmospheres (inert, oxidative and reducing). In all cases, the materials sinter, consequently resulting in a dramatic decrease in surface area. Interestingly, their catalytic activity per surface area towards CO oxidation, seems to be maintained, although those materials pre-treated under inert and oxidising atmospheres became inactive in consecutive catalytic runs. However, nanostructured ceria pre-treated at 1000 °C under hydrogen appeared to maintain its activity per surface area. The presence of hydrogen during thermal treatment does not only facilitate the removal of surface oxygen, but also the bulk oxygen, resulting in a rearrangement of the structure that facilitates its catalytic stability.Titanate nanotubes were shown to be inactive for CO oxidation and thus were used in the second part of this thesis as a support for platinum nanoparticles to study the effect of the structure and metal-support interaction on the resulting catalytic activity. The study focuses on the effect of different loading methods (ion exchange and incipient wetness impregnation) of platinum nanoparticles on the resulting metal particle size, dispersion, metal-support interaction and consequently their resulting catalytic activity.Ion exchange consistently resulted in smaller nanoparticles with a lower dispersion of sizes and more active catalyst, both in terms of turnover frequency values and activation energy, compared with incipient wetness impregnation. The catalytic activity of the platinum supported on titanate nanotubes increases as the metal particle size decreases to a size value (between 1 and 2.5 nm) below which a dramatic decrease in activity is observed. Despite initial differences in catalytic activity between the different catalysts, it was observed that after initial reactions to 400 °C, the activation energy was independent of metal loading weight and was instead inherent of the loading method, suggesting the presence of similar active sites.
Date of Award13 May 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorLaura Torrente Murciano (Supervisor) & Christopher Frost (Supervisor)


  • Ceria
  • Nanostructured materials
  • Titanate nanotubes
  • Nanoparticles
  • Catalysis
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Thermal decomposition
  • Platinum
  • Nanorods
  • Nanocubes
  • Oxidation

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