First Advisor

Jun Jiao

Date of Publication

Fall 11-8-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical and Materials Engineering




Nanoparticles, Magnetite, Catalysis, Palladium -- Synthesis, Gold -- Synthesis, Groundwater -- Purification -- Trichloroethylene removal -- Case studies



Physical Description

1 online resource (xiii, 110 pages)


Recently, there has been growing interest in using transition metals (TM) for catalytic and electromagnetic applications, due to the ability of TMs to form stable compounds in multiple oxidation states. In this research, the focus has been on the synthesis and characterization of carbon-supported TM nanoparticles (NPs), specifically palladium (Pd) and gold (Au) NPs, for catalytic applications, and transition metal oxides (TMO) NPs, specifically Fe3O4 NPs for electromagnetic applications. Carbon supports have several advantages, such as enabling even distribution of particles, offering large specific surface area with excellent electron conductivity, and relative chemical inertness.

In this dissertation, for catalytic applications, emphasis was on removal of trichloroethylene (TCE) from groundwater. For this application, carbon-supported Pd/Au NP catalysts were developed. Pd was chosen because it is more active, stable and selective for desired end-products, and Au has shown to be a good promotor of Pd's catalytic activity. Often, commercially available Pd-based catalysts are made using harsh chemicals, which can be harmful to the environment. Here, an environmentally friendly process with aspects of green chemistry was developed to produce carbon-supported Pd/Au NP catalysts. This process uses a combination of sonochemistry and solvothermal syntheses. The carefully designed carbon-supported Pd/Au NP catalyst material was systematically characterized, tested against TCE, and optimized for increased rate of removal of TCE. Electron microscopy and spectroscopy techniques were used to study the material including structure, configuration and oxidative state. The Pd/Au NPs were found mainly to form clusters with an aggregate-PdShellAuCore structure. Using state-of-the-art direct detection with electron energy loss spectroscopy, the Pd NPs were found to have an oxidative state of zero (0). The formation of the catalyst material was studied in detail by varying several synthesis parameters including type of solvent, sonication time, synthesis temperature etc. The most optimized catalyst was found remove TCE at double the rate of corresponding commercial Pd-based catalysts in a hydrogen headspace. This material was found to catalyze the removal of TCE via traditional hydrodehalogenation and shows promise for the removal of other contaminants such as trichloropropane (TCP), carbon tetrachloride (CT).

This green approach to make and optimize TM materials for specific applications was extended to TMOs, specifically magnetite (Fe3O4) and further developed for the application of electromagnetism. As catalysts, Fe3O4 is used for removal of p-nitrophenol from water. However, since the carbon-supported Pd/Au material system was developed and optimized for catalysis, here, carbon-supported Fe3O4 NPs were developed for electromagnetic applications. There has been growing interest in tuning the magnetic properties of materials at room temperature with the use of external electric fields, for long-term applications in data storage and spintronic devices. While a complete reversible change of material properties has not yet been achieved, some success in partial switching has been achieved using multiferroic spinel structures such as Fe3O4. These materials experience a change in magnetic moment at room temperature when exposed to the electric fields generated by electrochemical cells such as lithium ion batteries (LIBs) and supercapacitors (SC). In the past, a 1% reversible change was observed in Fe3O4 using LIBs. Here, building on the developments from previous material system, Fe3O4 NPs were directly hybridized onto the graphene support in order to increase the observable change in magnetic moment. The material was systematically designed and tested for this application, including a study of the material formation. A simple, environmentally friendly synthesis using the solvothermal process was implemented to make the graphene-supported Fe3O4 NPs. This new material was found to produce a reversible change of up to 18% in a LIB. In order to overcome some of the difficulties of testing with a LIB, a corresponding hybrid SC was designed, built and calibrated. The graphene-supported Fe3O4 NPs were found to produce a net 2% reversibility in the SC, which has not been reported before. The results from both the LIB and SC were analyzed to better understand the mechanism of switching in a spinel ferrite such as Fe3O4, which can help optimize the material for future applications.

The focus of this dissertation was on the development of a methodology for carbon-supported TM and TMO NPs for specific applications. It is envisioned that this approach and strategy will contribute towards the future optimization of similar material systems for a multitude of applications.


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