Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Javier Vela


The world is currently facing an energy and environmental crisis for which new technologies are needed. Development of cost-competitive materials for catalysis and hydrogen storage on-board motor vehicles is crucial to lead subsequent generations into a more sustainable and energy independent future. This thesis presents work toward the scalable synthesis of bimetallic heterostructures that can enable hydrogen to compete with carbonaceous fuels by meeting the necessary gravimetric and volumetric energy densities and by enhancing hydrogen sorption/desorption kinetics near ambient temperatures and pressures. Utilizing the well-known phenomenon of hydrogen spillover, these bimetallic heterostructures could work by lowering the activation energy for hydrogenation and dehydrogenation of metals. Herein, we report a novel method for the scalable synthesis of silica templated zero-valent nickel particles (Ni⊂SiO2) that hold promise for the synthesis of nickel nanorods for use in bimetallic heterostructures for hydrogen storage. Our synthesis proceeds by chemical reduction of a nickel-hydrazine complex with sodium borohydride followed by calcination under hydrogen gas to yield silica encapsulated nickel particles. Transmission electron microscopy and powder X-ray diffraction were used to characterize the general morphology of the resultant nanocapsules as well as the crystalline phases of the incorporated Ni0 nanocrystals. The structures display strong magnetic behavior at room temperature and preliminary data suggests nickel particle size can be controlled by varying the amount of nickel precursor used in the synthesis. Calcination under different environments and TEM analysis provides evidence for an atomic migration mechanism of particle formation.

Ni⊂SiO2 nanocapsules were used as seeds to induce heterogeneous nucleation and subsequent growth within the nanocapsule via electroless nickel plating. Nickel nanoparticle growth occurs under high temperature alkaline conditions, however silica nanocapsule integrity is not maintained due to the incompatibility of silica with the growth conditions. Silica nanocapsule integrity is maintained under low temperature neutral conditions, but nickel particle growth is not observed. Through FTIR and UV/Vis analysis, we show the degree of crosslinking and condensation increases in calcined silica compared to as-synthesized silica. We propose the increased density of the silica nanocapsule hinders mass transfer of the bulky nickel precursor complex from solution and onto the surface of the "catalytic" zero-valent nickel seed within the nanocapsule cavity. Decreasing the density of the silica nanocapsule can be achieved through co-condensation of tetraethylorthosilicate with an alkyl functionalized silane followed by calcination to remove the organic component or by chemical etching in alkaline solution, but will not be addressed in this thesis.

Copyright Owner

Nicholas Nelson



File Format


File Size

75 pages