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Spontaneous Oxidation of Ni Nanoclusters on MgO Monolayers Induced by Segregation of Interfacial Oxygen

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journal contribution
posted on 17.12.2015, 08:57 by M. Smerieri, J. Pal, L. Savio, L. Vattuone, R. Ferrando, S. Tosoni, L. Giordano, G. Pacchioni, M. Rocca
We report the study of Ni nanoclusters deposited on MgO/Ag(100) ultrathin films (one monolayer) at T = 200 K. We show by STM analysis and DFT calculations that in the limit of low Ni coverage the formation of nanoclusters of four to six atoms occurs and that these aggregates are flat rather than 3D, as expected for Ni tetramers, pentamers, or hexamers. Both the shape of the clusters and the interatomic distance between neighboring Ni atoms are indicative that the nanoparticles do not consist of pure metal atoms but that a NiyOx structure has formed thanks to the availability of atomic oxygen accumulated at the MgO/Ag interface, with Ni clusters acting as oxygen pumps. Besides being of relevance in view of the use of metal nanoclusters in catalysis and other applications, this finding gives a further proof of the peculiar behavior of ultrathin oxide films.