Development of ruthenium nanoparticles as catalyst models for the splitting of water : combination of experimental and theoretical chemistry approaches

Abstract : This PhD thesis is an upstream study regarding the production of hydrogen (H2) via the water splitting process. The reactions involved (water oxidation, WOR and hydrogen evolution reactions, HER) require efficient catalysts and nanoparticles (NPs) can act so. Such catalysis can be photoactivated by combining photosensitizers (PS) with the NPs leading to hybrid PS-NPs systems, and effective assembling is able via carboxylic acid groups. This work relies on a combination of experimental and theoretical tools to develop novel ruthenium-based nanocatalysts for the water splitting process. Our contribution aimed at achieving a precise mapping of the surface of ruthenium nanoparticles (RuNPs) stabilized by carboxylic acids with an alkyl chain of different length as model systems for the design of PS-NPs catalysts for H2 photoproduction from water. One of the main aims of this PhD was to bring a better understanding of structure/properties relationship at the nanoscale to explain the surface properties of RuNPs stabilized by carboxylic acids and their catalytic viability. RuNPs were synthesized by the organometallic approach using the [Ru(COD)(COT)] complex as metal source and ethanoic, pentanoic and octanoic acids as stabilizers. This synthesis method allows the formation of well-controlled metal NPs, thus providing nanosystems of choice for fine comparative studies. TEM characterization revealed the formation of homogeneous populations of RuNPs in a size range of 1.1 - 1.7 nm. The surface state of the NPs was probed by complementary analytical techniques like IR, NMR and WAXS, leading to a precise mapping of their surface. Optimization studies of the ligand/[Ru] ratio to get NPs with a similar size allowed to have comparable nanosystems whatever the carboxylic acid used as stabilizer and thus to determine the influence of the alkyl chain length. DFT calculations were performed in parallel according to a thermodynamic model fed with DFT energies. Also, a systematic analysis of the bond properties and of the electronic states (Density of States, Crystal Orbital Hamilton Population, atomic charges) was carried out using a Ru55 NP model. DFT calculations of the vibrational features of model RuNPs and of the chemical shifts of model Ru clusters also allowed to secure the spectroscopic experimental assignations. Spectroscopic data and DFT mechanistic studies evidenced that the carboxylic acids lie on the metal surface as carboxylates, together with hydrogen atoms. The results of experimental and theoretical titrations are in good agreement, thus showing the approach followed to be an efficient step to build a model in order to understand the ligand influence on RuNPs properties. Hydrogen adsorption Gibbs free energy, which is a reference parameter to determine the viability of materials for HER catalysis, has been calculated for optimized RuNP structures. The best nanocatalyst revealed to have both, intermediate crowded metal surface and intermediate alkyl chain length for the capping ligand, indicating the RuNPs stabilized by pentanoic acid as the most promising catalyst. Experiments on ligand exchange at the surface of octanoic acid-stabilized RuNPs were also performed in order to model the PS anchoring onto RuNPs through carboxylic acid groups completed by theoretical studies. Results obtained demonstrated the potentiality of this approach. The originality of this work lies with the combination of experimental and theoretical studies in parallel to achieve a better understanding of structure/properties relationship of RuNPs stabilized by carboxylic acids and their catalytic viability for the water-splitting process. Preliminary catalytic results are encouraging, and the data obtained should now allow to design appropriate nanocatalysts. Finally, the interest of this combined approach has been demonstrated through the study of RuNPs for water splitting, but this work opens new opportunities of research in nanocatalysis.
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Roberto Gonzalez Gomez. Development of ruthenium nanoparticles as catalyst models for the splitting of water : combination of experimental and theoretical chemistry approaches. Coordination chemistry. Université Paul Sabatier - Toulouse III, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019TOU30019⟩. ⟨tel-02314066⟩

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