Bulk Immiscibility at the Edge of the Nanoscale
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In the quest to identify more effective catalyst nanoparticles for many industrially important applications, the Au-Pt system has gathered considerable attention. Despite considerable effort the interplay between phase equilibrium behavior and surface segregation in Au-Pt nanoparticles is still poorly understood. Here we investigate the phase equilibrium behavior of 20 nm Au-Pt nanoparticles using a combination of high-resolution scanning transmission electron microscopy and a hybrid Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics atomistic simulation technique. Our approach takes into account the effects of immiscibility, elastic strain, interfacial free energy, and surface segregation. This is used to explain two key phenomena taking place in these nanoparticles. The first is whether the binary system remains immiscible at the nanoscale, and if so what morphology would the secondary phase take. Our findings suggest that even at sizes of 20 nm, thermally equilibrated Au-Pt nanoparticles remain largely immiscible and behave thermodynamically as bulk-like systems. We explain why 20 nm Au-Pt nanoparticles phase separate into hemispheres as opposed to a thick-shelled core-shell structure. These insights are central to further optimization of Au-Pt nanoparticles toward enhanced catalytic activities. The phase-separated Janus particles observed in this study offer enhanced material functionality arising from the nonuniformity of their plasmonic, catalytic, and surface properties.
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