A method of patterning surface oxides or analogous adducts on the surface of a metal

Iowa State University researchers have developed a method to create texture and patterns onto the surface of metal particles. Utilizing a thermal-oxidative compositional inversion (TOCI), these particles can be modified on their surface to create different reactivities and surface textures based on the oxidation that occurs on selective heating.

Non-heated particles tend to have flat and smooth surfaces which limits the surface area for interface interactions. Surface modification via migration and oxidation of components in undercooled liquid metals can change the reactivity by inverting the composition of the particle. This change of reactivity is most useful in terms of changing catalytic activity. This allows for precision reaction control that could allow for complex or controlled synthesis in one pot that would have otherwise been unobtainable with traditional catalysts.


  • Increase in control over composition and texture of particles
  • Smart catalyst functionality
  • Reduction of multi-step processes (i.e. one pot synthesis)

Tuning of reactivity can create catalysts with broad functionality or able to change functionality in situ. Tuning of surface roughness can improve particle performance as an additive.

A. Martin§, W. Kiarie§, B.S. Chang, M.M. Thuo “Chameleon Metals: Autonomous Nano-Texturing and Composition Inversion on Liquid Metals Surface” Angew. Chem. 2020 59, 352 – 357

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