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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Controlling the Growth and Catalytic Activity of Platinum Nanoparticles Using Peptide and Polymer Ligands

  • Author(s): Forbes, Lauren Marie
  • et al.

Heterogeneous catalysts have widespread industrial applications. Platinum nanomaterials in particular, due to their particularly high electrocatalytic activity and durability, are used to catalyze a wide variety of reactions, including oxygen reduction, which is frequently used as the cathode reaction in fuel cells. As platinum is a very expensive material, a high priority in fuel cell research is the exploration of less expensive, more efficient catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). We demonstrate here the use of phage display to identify peptides that bind to Pt (100) which were then used to synthesize platinum cubes in solution. However, while the peptides were able to control particle growth, the bio-synthesized Pt particles showed extremely poor activity when tested for ORR. This could be attributed to peptide coverage on the surface or strong interactions between particular amino acids and the metal that are detrimental for catalysis. To investigate this further, we decided to investigate the role of individual amino acids on Pt nanocrystal synthesis and catalysis. For this, we conjugated the R-groups of single amino acids to polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains. Through this work we have determined that the identity of the amino acid R- group is important in both the synthesis and the catalytic activity of the particles. For Pt nanoparticle synthesis, we found that the hydrophobicity of the functional groups affected their ability to interact well with the particles during nucleation and growth, and thus only the hydrophilic functional groups were capable of mediating the synthesis to produce well-defined faceted particles. With respect to ORR, we found distinct trends that showed that the inclusion of certain amino acids could significantly enhance catalysis- even at high polymer loadings. This work presents evidence that counters the common conception that organic capping ligands decrease catalytic activity; in fact activity may actually be improved over bare metal through judicious choice and design of ligands that inhibit Pt oxidation and control chain packing at the Pt surface. Therefore, it may be possible to have ligands on a nanoparticle surface that allow the particles to be well-dispersed on an electrode surface, while simultaneously enhancing catalysis

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