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Tuan Nghia Duong

Atomic-level characterization of nano- and micro-structured porous materials by NMR: Pushing the frontiers of sensitivity

Published on 25 November 2015
Thesis presented November 25, 2015

Solid-state NMR spectroscopy is a powerful analytical technique to characterize the atomic-level structure and dynamics of both ordered and disordered materials. However, its main limitation is the lack of sensitivity, particularly preventing studies on the surface of materials, an important region determining their chemical properties. It has been recently shown that Magic Angle Spinning Dynamic Nuclear Polarization (MAS-DNP) could overcome this difficulty. This technique can provide an enhancement of NMR sensitivity of many orders of magnitude. It is based on the partial microwave-driven transfer of the large intrinsic polarization of electron spins to nuclear spins, making impractical NMR experiments feasible. The aim of this work is to use this MAS-DNP technique to help gain new insights into the structure of inorganic and hybrid nanostructured materials. Such knowledge will facilitate the rational improvement of their properties. Two classes of materials are investigated. The first ones are siloxane-functionalized silica nanoparticles (NPs), which can be used to extend the working durability of fuel cells. Owing to the sensitivity enhancement achieved by MAS-DNP, the condensation network structure of siloxanes bound to the surface of silica NPs could be elucidated using 29Si-29Si homonuclear correlation NMR experiments. The second class of investigated systems encompasses two forms of aluminas, γ-alumina and mesoporous alumina. The former is widely used in industry as a catalyst, catalyst support, and adsorbent, whereas the latter is a promising material owing to its highly controlled porosity and its high surface accessibility. Nevertheless, their structures are still under heavy investigation since they do not form single crystals. Due to an improved comprehension of MAS-DNP performance, including optimized sample preparation, the obstacle of extremely low efficiency for surface-selective 27Al NMR experiments is circumvented. Sophisticated two-dimensional NMR experiments are employed to provide selective insights into structures on the surface and a new experiment is proposed to study only the bulk of these materials. For achieving further information on the spatial proximities between different 27Al sites, a thorough understanding of homonuclear dipolar recoupling pulse sequences for half-integer quadrupolar nuclei is required. In order to do this, Average Hamiltonian theory and numerical simulations are used to analyze the spin dynamics resulting from these pulse sequences, giving insights into their relative performances. Overall, it is shown that the use of MAS-DNP can be crucial for the characterization of state-of-the-art materials, highlighting the future importance of this technique.

Recoupling sequences, Nanoparticles, Porous Materials, Dynamic Nuclear Polarisation, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

On-line thesis.