Aluminum Nanocrystals as a Plasmonic Photocatalyst for Hydrogen Dissociation

Linan Zhou, Chao Zhang, Michael J. McClain, Alejandro Manjavacas, Caroline M. Krauter, Shu Tian, Felix Berg, Henry O. Everitt, Emily A. Carter, Peter Nordlander, Naomi J. Halas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

285 Scopus citations


Hydrogen dissociation is a critical step in many hydrogenation reactions central to industrial chemical production and pollutant removal. This step typically utilizes the favorable band structure of precious metal catalysts like platinum and palladium to achieve high efficiency under mild conditions. Here we demonstrate that aluminum nanocrystals (Al NCs), when illuminated, can be used as a photocatalyst for hydrogen dissociation at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, despite the high activation barrier toward hydrogen adsorption and dissociation. We show that hot electron transfer from Al NCs to the antibonding orbitals of hydrogen molecules facilitates their dissociation. Hot electrons generated from surface plasmon decay and from direct photoexcitation of the interband transitions of Al both contribute to this process. Our results pave the way for the use of aluminum, an earth-abundant, nonprecious metal, for photocatalysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1478-1484
Number of pages7
JournalNano Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 10 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • General Materials Science


  • Plasmonic photocatalysis
  • aluminum nanocrystals
  • hot electron
  • hydrogen dissociation
  • interband transition


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