Design and Construction of a High Vacuum Surface Analysis Instrument to Study Chemistry at Nanoparticulate Surfaces

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Virginia Tech


Metal oxide and metal oxide-supported metal nanoparticles can adsorb and decompose chemical warfare agents (CWAs) and their simulants. Nanoparticle activity depends on several factors including chemical composition, particle size, and support, resulting in a vast number of materials with potential applications in CWA decontamination. Current instrumentation in our laboratory used to investigate fundamental gas-surface interactions require extensive time and effort to achieve operating conditions.

This thesis describes the design and construction of a high-throughput, high vacuum surface analysis instrument capable of studying interactions between CWA simulants and nanoparticulate surfaces. The new instrument is small, relatively inexpensive, and easy to use, allowing for expeditious investigations of fundamental interactions between gasses and nanoparticulate samples. The instrument maintains the sample under high vacuum (10?⁷-10?⁹ torr) and can reach operating pressures in less than one hour. Thermal control of the sample from 150-800 K enables sample cleaning and thermal desorption experiments. Infrared spectroscopic and mass spectrometric methods are used concurrently to study gas-surface interactions. Temperature programmed desorption is used to estimate binding strength of adsorbed species. Initial studies were conducted to assess the performance of the instrument and to investigate interactions between the CWA simulant dimethyl methylphosphonate (DMMP) and nanoparticulate silicon dioxide.



temperature programmed desorption, infrared spectroscopy, high vacuum, chemical warfare agent, nanoparticles, silicon dioxide