Grain boundaries at the surface of consolidated MgO nanocrystals and acid-base functionality Academic Article uri icon


  • The increase of the surface basicity–acidity of MgO material by factors of 1.8–3.0 due to consolidation of its nanocrystals was demonstrated by the indicator titration. It was shown that the parallel increase of surface acidity and basicity is attributed to the formation of grain boundaries (GB) after MgO aerogel densification. A simple model predicting the increase of surface acidity–basicity of MgO that correlates with the results of direct measurements was proposed. The model is based on the study of the fine atomic structure at GB surface areas in consolidated MgO nanocrystals in the framework of Density Functional Theory. It is found that the displacements of coordinatively unsaturated surface ions near the GB are significant at the distances ∼3–4 atomic layers from the geometrical contact plane between nanocrystals. The detailed analysis of atomic positions inside GB demonstrated the coordination deficiency of surface atoms at the GB areas leading to the formation of stretched bonds and to creation of low coordinated surface ions due to splitting of coordination numbers of surface atoms belonging to GB areas. Density of states for electrons shows the existence of additional states in the band gap close to the bottom of the conduction band. The adsorption energy of CO2 molecules atop oxygen atoms exposed at surface GB areas is of the same order of magnitude as that reported for oxygen atoms at crystallographic edges and corners of MgO crystals. It provides additional options for bonding of molecules at the surface of nanocrystalline MgO increasing the adsorption capacity and catalytic activity.

publication date

  • August 14, 2013