Design of FeCo Nanoalloy Morphology via Control of Reaction Kinetics
Williams, Melissa Ann Zubris
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Nanoalloys are an exciting new class of materials in the growing field of nanotechnology. Nanoalloys consist of the nanoscale co-aggregation of two or more metals with a potential to form compositionally-ordered phases or superstructures that have properties unlike those of the individual metal clusters or of bulk alloys of the constituent metals. This research seizes the opportunity that the nanoscale domain has to offer, and focuses on the synthesis of iron and cobalt nanoalloys via the simultaneous decomposition of iron cobalt organometallic precursors in a stabilizing environment, accompanied by the thorough characterization of the resulting nanoclusters. Zero-valent FeCo nanoalloys may potentially have interesting uses as magnetic materials. Since these clusters have sizes less than the size of their magnetic domain, the clusters will exhibit single domain magnetism. This magnetism may be observed by the presence of chain structures of FeCo nanoclusters due to the alignment of their single magnetic domains. In order to create a near-atomically homogeneous nanoalloy without preferential aggregation of its metal atom constituents, no clustering and phase separation should take place. In the bulk, alloys of iron and cobalt phase separate over most of the compositional range. Conversely, at the nanoscale, it may be possible to synthesize nanoalloy structures that are not normally favorable at given compositions, by the manipulation of reaction kinetics. In order to produce an atomically mixed nanoalloy, the transformation reactions of the organometallic precursors should display similar kinetic features, i.e. similar reaction rates. Therefore, the reaction kinetics of all the species in the reaction must be similar to avoid competition between them. As a result, kinetic control of the individual transformation reaction rates of each species may be used to modulate the aggregation and phase separation of the different species, and consequently control cluster morphology. This work has provided the framework for the design of synthesis methods that enable the control of the structure of FeCo nanoalloys with careful attention to precursor decomposition kinetics and the correlation between reaction kinetics and nanoalloy morphology.