Nanoparticles and Nanostructures
Chemistry is life. That’s the starting point, and nanoparticles can make life more pleasant and easy. Simply by finely dispersing common bulk materials new properties can be observed: inert materials become catalysts, insulators become conductors, opaque substances become transparent, stable materials become combustible… Gold nanoparticles solutions are shining red. Scientist skills lie in their ability to manipulate matter in a controlled way. There is a world to be discovered: what Ostwald named the “world of lost dimension”. It is common belief that nanostructures are a new state of matter. This is due to the fact that atoms at surfaces behave differently to those in the bulk, and nanoparticles are literally characterised by those surfaces. My group works on particles, which are relevant for novel energy cycles and more efficient chemical reactions. For many of those applications, appropriate nanostructures do not already exist or are not sustainable so that “de novo” systems have to be designed from scratch. This for instance holds for metal carbide and nitride particles, which offer new pathways for metal/base catalysis, but also are record holders in mechanical hardness or magnetization. This is also true for the corresponding borides, which are again new land for chemistry, when rational nanostructures are to be made. New cathode nanomaterials for the lithium batteries are another target where progress will directly impact society. Synthesis in my group is always accompanied with the suitable physical characterization techniques. This includes, among others, high-resolution TEM microscopy, scattering techniques and magnetic characterisation.