Novel synthesis of highly reactive bi-metallic nanoparticle catalysts using microwaves

Physical Sciences : Physics

Available for licensing


  • Simon Humphrey, Ph.D. , Chemistry
  • Stephany Garcia , Chemistry

Background/unmet need

The morphology of metal nanoparticles directly influences their catalytic selectivity, due to the intrinsic relationship between surface structure and reactivity. Noble metal nanoparticle catalysts are therefore of immense current interest in heterogeneous catalysis, because they offer far superior surface areas in comparison to single crystals.

New methods by which to prepare noble metal nanoparticles (NPs) with well-defined surface structure have attracted significant interest over the past few years because of the importance of metals such as Rh, Pd, and Pt as heterogeneous catalysts in a range of critical industrial processes.

Microwave-assisted heating has attracted significant interest in a range of synthetic fields, including organic synthesis and inorganic materials preparation, owing to the fast reaction times, high throughput capabilities, and beneficial crystallization effects induced by unusual, localized "hotspot" heating. Microwave-prepared nanoparticles show approximately twice the catalytic activity of similar-sized conventionally prepared particles.

Invention Description

The invention presents a synthetic methodology which facilitates the easy and convenient preparation of polymer-capped noble metal nanoparticles that have defined size, shape and composition, and consist of alloyed mixtures of two noble metals. The method relies upon the use of microwave assisted irradiation and solution-phase reaction of commercially available precursors using environmentally benign solvents. The reaction process is automated in order to ensure high reproducibility and to allow for scale up.

The resulting bimetallic alloy metal nanoparticles exhibit unique properties that differ significantly from bulk metal. The relative amounts of each metal in the alloy antiparticle can also be varied, which allows for fine-tuning of the catalytic properties. 


  • This systematic method is broadly applicable and is not specific to a single system.
  • The reagents used are commercially available and are of low toxicity.
  • No harmful organic solvent is employed in the synthesis.


  • This synthetic method is highly reproducible and flexible, allowing for broad composition tunability.
  • The method produces easily isolable products that can be immediately employed as active catalysts.

Market potential/applications

Catalysis industries; fine chemicals producers; custom nanoparticle synthesis

Development Stage

Proof of concept

IP Status

  • 1 PCT patent application filed
  • 1 U.S. patent application filed