Identification of different oxygen species in oxide nanostructures with 17O solid-state NMR spectroscopy

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Science Advances  20 Feb 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 1, e1400133
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400133

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Nanostructured oxides find multiple uses in a diverse range of applications including catalysis, energy storage, and environmental management, their higher surface areas, and, in some cases, electronic properties resulting in different physical properties from their bulk counterparts. Developing structure-property relations for these materials requires a determination of surface and subsurface structure. Although microscopy plays a critical role owing to the fact that the volumes sampled by such techniques may not be representative of the whole sample, complementary characterization methods are urgently required. We develop a simple nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) strategy to detect the first few layers of a nanomaterial, demonstrating the approach with technologically relevant ceria nanoparticles. We show that the 17O resonances arising from the first to third surface layer oxygen ions, hydroxyl sites, and oxygen species near vacancies can be distinguished from the oxygen ions in the bulk, with higher-frequency 17O chemical shifts being observed for the lower coordinated surface sites. H217O can be used to selectively enrich surface sites, allowing only these particular active sites to be monitored in a chemical process. 17O NMR spectra of thermally treated nanosized ceria clearly show how different oxygen species interconvert at elevated temperature. Density functional theory calculations confirm the assignments and reveal a strong dependence of chemical shift on the nature of the surface. These results open up new strategies for characterizing nanostructured oxides and their applications.

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