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Title: Influence of modifiers on Palladium based nanoparticles for room temperature formic acid decomposition
Author: Jones, Simon Philip
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Heterogeneous catalysts form a highly important part of everyday life, ranging from the production of fertiliser enabling the growth of crops that sustain much of the world's population to the production of synthetic fuels. They constitute a key part of the chemical industry and contribute towards substantial economic and environmental benefits. Heterogeneous catalysts are also believed to have an important role to play in a future hydrogen economy, reducing our requirements for fossil fuels. To this end, formic acid has been proposed as a potential hydrogen storage material for small portable devices. Additionally, formic acid has historically been used as a probe molecule to study catalyst materials and recent developments in the knowledge of its decomposition pathways and the preferred sites of these reactions, establish a good foundation for further study. This work explores a range of novel modification techniques that alter the activity of Pd nanoparticles to decompose formic acid to H2 and CO2. The methods used are the addition of polymers, attaching various functional groups to the surface of the catalyst support and decoration of nanoparticles with sub-monolayer coverages of another metal. Using a range of characterisation methods including FTIR of an adsorbed CO probe, XRD and XPS coupled with computational modelling, it is found that these methods result in some significant electronic and/or geometric alterations to the Pd nanoparticles. For polymer modification, the nature of the pendent group is highly important in determining the effects of the polymer on the Pd particles, with all the tested polymers resulting in varying degrees of electronic donation to the Pd surface. The geometric modifications caused by the polymers also varied with pendent groups; with amine containing pendent groups found to selectively block low coordinate sites, preventing the undesired dehydration of formic acid which results in poisoning of the Pd catalyst by the resulting CO. Attachment of amine groups to the surface of metal oxide catalyst supports, is demonstrated to result in dramatic electronic promotional effects to the supported Pd nanoparticles, and when an amine polymer is attached to the support surface the geometric modification is again observed. Finally decoration of Pd nanoparticles with a sub-monolayer coverage of a second metal is examined, resulting in some similar electronic and geometric effects on Pd nanoparticle surfaces to those observed with polymer modification with corresponding changes in formic acid decomposition activity. Overall, a number of methods are displayed to tune the catalytic activity and selectivity of Pd nanoparticles for formic acid decomposition, resulting in catalysts with some of the highest reported TOF's at room temperature. These modification methods are believed to be potentially applicable to a wide range of other catalytic reactions that operate under mild conditions.
Supervisor: Tsang, S. C. Edman Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Chemistry & allied sciences ; Inorganic chemistry ; Catalysis ; Hydrogen Storage ; Nanomaterials ; Heterogeneous catalyst ; Geometric modification ; Electronic modification ; Formic acid dehydrogenation ; Selective decomposition ; Hydrogen production