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Imaging the electrocatalytic activity of single nanoparticles


The electrocatalytic properties of nanoparticles depend on their size, shape and composition1,2. These properties are typically probed by measuring the total electrocatalytic reaction current of a large number of nanoparticles, but this approach is time-consuming and can only measure the average catalytic activity of the nanoparticles under study. However, the identification of new catalysts requires the ability to rapidly measure the properties of nanoparticles synthesized under various conditions and, ideally, to measure the electrocatalytic activity of individual nanoparticles. Here, we show that a plasmonic-based electrochemical current-imaging technique3 can simultaneously image and quantify the electrocatalytic reactions of an array of 1.6 × 105 platinum nanoparticles printed on an electrode surface, which could facilitate high-throughput screening of the catalytic activities of nanoparticles. We also show that the approach can be used to image the electrocatalytic reaction current and measure the cyclic voltammograms of single nanoparticles.

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Figure 1: P-ECi current image of a platinum nanoparticle microarray.
Figure 2: Platinum nanoparticle microarray with different surface densities.
Figure 3: Experimental and simulated SPR images of platinum nanoparticles.
Figure 4: Electrocatalytic reaction of a single platinum nanoparticle.
Figure 5: Statistical analysis of single platinum nanoparticle electrocatalysis.


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This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (CHE-1105588), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 11121091), the National Basic Research Program of China (no. 2011CB935704) and the Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 20975060). I.D.P. thanks the Ramony Cajal program from the Spanish Government and EU International Reintegration Grant (FP7-PEOPLE-2010-RG-277182) for financial support. The authors thank Zhengtao Deng for his help to obtain TEM images of platinum nanoparticle.

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Authors and Affiliations



X.N.S. carried out the experiments and analysed the experimental data. I.D.P., P.V., L.Z., W.W., J.L. and J.H.L. helped with sample preparation. S.W. helped with instrumentation. L.J.W., Y.G. and Q.H.G. carried out theoretical simulations. N.J.T. conceived the project. X.N.S. and N.J.T. wrote the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Ying Gu, Jinghong Li or Nongjian Tao.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Shan, X., Díez-Pérez, I., Wang, L. et al. Imaging the electrocatalytic activity of single nanoparticles. Nature Nanotech 7, 668–672 (2012).

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