Although Ziegler–Natta (ZN) catalysts play a major role in the polyolefin market, a true understanding of their properties at the molecular level is still missing. In particular, there is a lack of knowledge on the electronic properties of Ti sites. Theoretical calculations predict that the electron density of the Ti sites in the precatalysts correlates with the activation energy for olefin insertion in the Ti-alkyl bond generated at these sites after activation by Al-alkyls. It is also well known that the effective charge on the Ti sites in the activated catalysts affects the olefin π-complexation. In this contribution, we exploit two electronic spectroscopies, UV–vis and Ti L2,3-edge near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS), complemented with theoretical simulation to investigate three ZN precatalysts of increasing complexity (up to an industrial system) and the corresponding catalysts activated by triethylaluminum (TEAl). We provide compelling evidence for the presence of monomeric 6-fold-coordinated Ti4+ species in all of the precatalysts, which however differ in the effective charge on the Ti sites. We also unambiguously demonstrate that these sites are reduced by TEAl to two types of monomeric 5-coordinated Ti3+, either alkylated or not, and that the former are involved in ethylene polymerization. In addition, small TiCl3 clusters are formed in the industrial catalyst, likely due to the occurrence of severe reducing conditions within the catalyst pores. These data prove the potential of these two techniques, coupled with simulation, in providing an accurate description of the electronic properties of heterogeneous ZN catalysts.
The magnetic properties of the two-dimensional VI3 bilayer are the focus of our first-principles analysis, highlighting the role of t2g orbital splitting and carried out in comparison with the CrI3 prototypical case, where the splitting is negligible. In VI3 bilayers, the empty a1g state is found to play a crucial role in both stabilizing the insulating state and in determining the interlayer magnetic interaction. Indeed, an analysis based on maximally localized Wannier functions allows one to evaluate the interlayer exchange interactions in two different VI3 stackings (labeled AB and AB′), to interpret the results in terms of the virtual-hopping mechanism, and to highlight the strongest hopping channels underlying the magnetic interlayer coupling. Upon application of electric fields perpendicular to the slab, we find that the magnetic ground state in the AB′ stacking can be switched from antiferromagnetic to ferromagnetic, suggesting the VI3 bilayer as an appealing candidate for electric-field-driven miniaturized spintronic devices.
The growing demand for innovative means in biomedical, therapeutic and diagnostic sciences has led to the development of nanomedicine. In this context, naturally occurring tubular nanostructures composed of rolled sheets of alumino-silicates, known as halloysite nanotubes, have found wide application. Halloysite nanotubes indeed have surface properties that favor the selective loading of biomolecules. Here, we present the first, to our knowledge, structural study of DNA-decorated halloysite nanotubes, carried out with nanometric spatially-resolved infrared spectroscopy. Single nanotube absorption measurements indicate a partial covering of halloysite by DNA molecules, which show significant structural modifications taking place upon loading. The present study highlights the constraints for the use of nanostructured clays as DNA carriers and demonstrates the power of super-resolved infrared spectroscopy as an effective and versatile tool for the evaluation of immobilization processes in the context of drug delivery and gene transfer.
Preferential oxidation of CO (COPrOx) is a catalytic reaction targeting the removal of trace amounts of CO from hydrogen-rich gas mixtures. Non-noble metal catalysts, such as Cu and Co, can be equally active to Pt for the reaction; however, their commercialization is limited by their poor stability. We have recently shown that CoO is the most active state of cobalt for COPrOx, but under certain reaction conditions, it is readily oxidized to Co3O4 and deactivates. Here, we report a simple method to stabilize the Co2+ state by vanadium addition. The V-promoted cobalt catalyst exhibits considerably higher activity and stability than pure cobalt. The nature of the catalytic active sites during COPrOx was established by operando NAP-XPS and NEXAFS, while the stability of the Co2+ state on the surface was verified by in situ NEXAFS at 1 bar pressure. The active phase consists of an ultra-thin cobalt-vanadate surface layer, containing tetrahedral V5+ and octahedral Co2+ cations, with an electronic and geometric structure that is deviating from the standard mixed bulk oxides. In addition, V addition helps to maintain the population of Co2+ species involved in the reaction, inhibiting carbonate species formation that are responsible for the deactivation. The promoting effect of V is discussed in terms of enhancement of CoO redox stability on the surface induced by electronic and structural modifications. These results demonstrate that V-promoted cobalt is a promising COPrOx catalyst and validate the application of in situ spectroscopy to provide the concept for designing better performing catalysts.
Perovskite-based heterostructures have recently gained remarkable interest, thanks to atomic-scale precision engineering. These systems are very susceptible to small variations of control parameters, such as two-dimensionality, strain, lattice polarizability, and doping. Focusing on the rare-earth nickelate diagram, LaNiO3 (LNO) catches the eye, being the only nickelate that does not undergo a metal-to-insulator transition (MIT). Therefore, the ground state of LNO has been studied in several theoretical and experimental papers. Here, we show by means of infrared spectroscopy that an MIT can be driven by dimensionality control in ultrathin LNO films when the number of unit cells drops to 2. Such a dimensionality tuning can eventually be tailored when a physically implemented monolayer in the ultrathin films is replaced by a digital single layer embedded in the Ruddlesden–Popper Lan+1NinO3n+1 series. We provide spectroscopic evidence that the dimensionality-induced MIT in Ruddlesden–Popper nickelates strongly resembles that of ultrathin LNO films. Our results can pave the way to the employment of Ruddlesden–Popper Lan+1NinO3n+1 to tune the electronic properties of LNO through dimensional transition without the need of physically changing the number of unit cells in thin films.
Solid oxide photoelectrochemical cells (SOPECs) with inorganic ion-conducting electrolytes provide an alternative solution for light harvesting and conversion. Exploring potential photoelectrodes for SOPECs and understanding their operation mechanisms are crucial for continuously developing this technology. Here, ceria-based thin films were newly explored as photoelectrodes for SOPEC applications. It was found that the photoresponse of ceria-based thin films can be tuned both by Sm-doping-induced defects and by the heating temperature of SOPECs. The whole process was found to depend on the surface electrochemical redox reactions synergistically with the bulk photoelectric effect. Samarium doping level can selectively switch the open-circuit voltages polarity of SOPECs under illumination, thus shifting the potential of photoelectrodes and changing their photoresponse. The role of defect chemistry engineering in determining such a photoelectrochemical process was discussed. Transient absorption and X-ray photoemission spectroscopies, together with the state-of-the-art in operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy, allowed us to provide a compelling explanation of the experimentally observed switching behavior on the basis of the surface reactions and successive charge balance in the bulk.
THORONDOR is a data treatment software with a graphical user interface (GUI) accessible via the browser‐based Jupyter notebook framework. It aims to provide an interactive and user‐friendly tool for the analysis of NEXAFS spectra collected during in situ experiments. The program allows on‐the‐fly representation and quick correction of large datasets from single or multiple experiments. In particular, it provides the possibility to align in energy several spectral profiles on the basis of user‐defined references. Various techniques to calculate background subtraction and signal normalization have been made available. In this context, an innovation of this GUI involves the usage of a slider‐based approach that provides the ability to instantly manipulate and visualize processed data for the user. Finally, the program is characterized by an advanced fitting toolbox based on the lmfit package. It offers a large selection of fitting routines as well as different peak distributions and empirical ionization potential step edges, which can be used for the fit of the NEXAFS rising‐edge peaks. Statistical parameters describing the goodness of a fit such as χ2 or the R‐factor together with the parameter uncertainty distributions and the related correlations can be extracted for each chosen model.
Ti silicates, and in particular Titanium Silicalite‐1 (TS‐1), are nowadays important catalysts for several partial oxidation reactions in the presence of aqueous H 2 O 2 as oxidant. Despite the numerous studies dealing with this material, some fundamental aspects are still unfathomed. In particular, the structure and the catalytic role of defective Ti sites, other than perfect tetrahedral sites recognized as main active species, has not been quantitatively discussed in the literature. In this work, we assess the structural features of defective Ti sites on the basis of electronic spectroscopies outcomes, as interpreted through quantum‐mechanical simulation. We disclose here strong evidences that the most common defective Ti sites, often reported in the TS‐1 literature, are monomeric Ti centers, embedded in the zeolite framework, having a distorted octahedral local symmetry.
Ambient pressure operando soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy (soft-XAS) was applied to study the reactivity of hydroxylated SnO2 nanoparticles towards reducing gases. H2 was first used as a test case, showing that gas phase and surface states can be simultaneously probed: soft-XAS at the O K-edge gains sensitivity towards the gas phase, while at the Sn M4,5-edges tin surface states are explicitly probed. Results obtained by flowing hydrocarbons (CH4 and CH3CHCH2) unequivocally show that these gases react with surface hydroxyl groups to produce water without producing carbon oxides, and release electrons that localize on Sn to eventually form SnO. The partially reduced SnO2-x layer at the surface of SnO2 is readily reoxidised to SnO2 by treating the sample with O2 at mild temperatures (> 200 °C), revealing the nature of “electron sponge” of tin oxide. The experiments, combined with DFT calculations, allowed devising a mechanism for dissociative hydrocarbon adsorption on SnO2, involving direct reduction of Sn sites at the surface via cleavage of C-H bonds, and the formation of methoxy- and/or methyl-tin species at the surface.
The mechanisms of CO oxidation on the Mg0.2Co0.2Ni0.2Cu0.2Zn0.2O high entropy oxide were studied by means of operando soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy. We found that Cu is the active metal, and that Cu(II) can be rapidly reduced to Cu(I) by CO when the temperature is larger than 130 °C. Co and Ni do not have any role in this respect. The Cu(II) oxidation state can be easily but slowly recovered by treating the sample in O2 at ca. 250 °C. However, it should be noted that CuO is readily and irreversibly reduced to Cu(I) if treated in CO at T>100 °C. Thus, the main conclusion of this work is that the high configurational entropy of Mg0.2Co0.2Ni0.2Cu0.2Zn0.2O stabilizes the rock-salt structure and permits the oxidation/reduction of Cu to be reversible, thus permitting the catalytic cycle to take place.
Implementation of in-situ and operando experimental set-ups for bridging the pressure gap in characterization techniques based on monitoring of photoelectron emission has made significant achievements at several beamlines at Elettra synchrotron facility. These set-ups are now operational and have been successfully used to address unsolved issues exploring events occurring at solid–gas, solid–liquid and solid-solid interfaces of functional materials. The sections in the article communicate the research opportunities offered by the current set-ups at APE, BACH, ESCAmicroscopy and Nanospectroscopy beamlines and outline the next steps to overcome the present limits.
The tetragonal phase of chromium (III) oxide, although unstable in the bulk, can be synthesized in epitaxial heterostructures. Theoretical investigation by density-functional theory predicts an antiferromagnetic ground state for this compound. We demonstrate experimentally antiferromagnetism up to 40 K in ultrathin films of t−Cr2O3 by electrical measurements exploiting interface effect within a neighboring ultrathin Pt layer. We show that magnetotransport in Pt is affected by both spin-Hall magnetoresistance and magnetic proximity effect while we exclude any role of magnetism for the low-temperature resistance anomaly observed in Pt.
The design and characterization of a HHG source conceived for Time and Angle Resolved PhotoElectron Spectroscopy (TR-ARPES) experiments are presented. The harmonics are selected through a grating monochromator with an innovative design able to provide XUV radiation for two distinct TR-ARPES setups.
Interfaces play a crucial role in the study of novel phenomena emerging at heterostructures comprising metals and functional oxides. For this reason, attention should be paid to the interface chemistry, which can favor the interdiffusion of atomic species and, under certain conditions, lead to the formation of radically different compounds with respect to the original constituents. In this work, we consider Cr/
BaTiO3 heterostructures grown on SrTiO3 (100) substrates. Chromium thin films (1–2 nm thickness) are deposited by molecular beam epitaxy on the
BaTiO3 layer, and subsequently annealed in vacuum at temperatures ranging from 473 to 773 K. A disordered metallic layer is detected for annealing temperatures up to 573 K, whereas, at higher temperatures, we observe a progressive oxidation of chromium, which we relate to the thermally activated migration of oxygen from the substrate. The chromium oxidation state is +3 and the film shows a defective rocksalt structure, which grows lattice matched on the underlying BaTiO3 layer. One out of every three atoms of chromium is missing, producing an uncommon tetragonal phase with Cr2O3 stoichiometry. Despite the structural difference with respect to the ordinary corundum α-Cr2O3 phase, we demonstrate both experimentally and theoretically that the electronic properties of the two phases are, to a large extent, equivalent.
The knowledge of the picosecond dynamics of the energy level alignment between donor and acceptor materials in organic photovoltaic devices under working conditions is a challenge for fundamental material research. We measured by means of time-resolved Resonant X-ray Photoemission Spectroscopy (RPES) the energy level alignment in ZnPc/C60 films. We employed 800 nm femtosecond laser pulses to pump the system simulating sunlight excitation and X-rays from the synchrotron as a probe. We measured changes in the valence bands due to pump induced modifications of the interface dipole. Our measurements prove the feasibility of time-resolved RPES with high repetition rate sources.
This thesis completes my work as doctoral student of the Scuola di Dottorato in Fisica, Astrofisica e Fisica Applicata at the Università degli Studi di Milano that has been carried out, starting in November 4236, mostly at the Laboratorio TASC of IOM-CNR3 in the premises of the Elettra - Sincrotrone Trieste and FERMI@Elettra infrastructures4, in the framework of the NFFA and APE-beamline facilites5, as well as by accessing international large scale infrastructures and laboratories. The activity has addressed the development of experimental methodologies and novel instrumentation oriented to the study of the dynamical properties of highly correlated materials after high energy excitation. The science programme has been carried out by exploiting ultrafast femtosecond probes from the optical regime (Ti-Sa lasers, fibre laser oscillators) to the extreme UV-soft X rays at FERMI, to the picosecond hard X-rays from the SPring-: and Diamond synchrotron radiation source. The sample synthesis of correlated oxides and its characterization has been performed within the NFFA facility and APE-group collaboration in Trieste as well as the design and construction of the all new laser High Harmonic Generation beam line NFFA-SPRINT and its end station for time resolved vectorial electron spin polarimetry.
This thesis reports on the construction and commissioning tests of the novel experimental set-up needed for a long term research project, named ULTRASPIN, aiming at establishing time resolved spin-resolved photoemission measurements with ultra-short (10−14 s) photon pulses from Free Electron Laser beamlines or from table-top UV/Soft-X beamlines.
The ULTRASPIN project started in the summer 2013, building on competences and instrumentation in part available from the APE-beamline group of IOM-CNR at Elettra, and with the partial support of an European contract (EXSTASY-EXperimental STation for the Analysis of the Spin Dynamics, Grant agreement N.PIIF-GA-2012-326641) and related fellowship of a world-expert of Mott scattering.
I have been involved from the beginning in the final design, in the construction and commissioning of a novel stray-field free UHV apparatus for preparing and hosting atomically clean surfaces and for measuring the spin-polarization of the photo-emitted electrons with “single pulse” sensitivity down to the 10−14 s time scale, as well as in the standard high frequency spectroscopy mode. In the commissioning phase I have participated to test experiments on ULTRASPIN as well as to relevant experiments conducted in other apparatuses.