Surface-Protected Etching of Mesoporous Oxide Shells for the Stabilization of Metal Nanocatalysts



Nanoparticles of transition metals, particularly noble metals, are widely used in catalysis. However, enhancing their stability during catalytic reactions has been a challenge that has limited the full use of the benefits associated with their small size. In this Feature Article, a general “encapsulation and etching” strategy for the fabrication of nanocatalyst systems is introduced in which catalyst nanoparticles are protected within porous shells. The novelty of this approach lies in the use of chemical etching to assist the creation of mesopores in a protective oxide shell to promote efficient mass transfer to encapsulated metal nanoparticles. The etching process allows for the direct transformation of dense silica coatings into porous shells so that chemical species can reach the catalyst surface to participate in reactions while the shells act as physical barriers against aggregation of the catalyst particles. By using the surface-protected etching process, both yolk–shell and core–satellite type nanoreactors are synthesized and their utilization in liquid- and gas-phase catalysis is demonstrated. The thermal and chemical stability of the metallic cores during catalytic reactions is also investigated, and further work is carried out to enhance recyclability via the introduction of superparamagnetic components into the nanoreactor framework.