Insights into the formation of metal carbon nanocomposites using hybrid NiFe layered double hydroxides as precursors
NiFe-carbon magnetic nanocomposites prepared using hybrid sebacate intercalated layered double hydroxides (LDHs) as precursors have shown to be of interest as supercapacitors. Here the low-temperature formation mechanism of these materials has been deciphered by means of a combined study using complementary in situ (temperature-dependent) techniques. Specifically, studies involving X-ray powder diffraction, thermogravimetry coupled to mass spectroscopy (TG-MS), statistical Raman spectroscopy (SRS), aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) and electron energy-loss spectroscopy (EELS) have been carried out. The experimental results confirm the early formation of FeNi3 NPs at ca. 200–250 °C, preceding the concerted collapse of the starting NiFe-LDH laminar structure in just 50 °C (from 350 to 400 °C). At the same time, the catalytic interactions between the metallic atoms and the organic molecules permit the concomitant formation of a graphitic carbon matrix leading to the formation of the final FeNi3-carbon nanocomposite. Furthermore, in situ temperature-dependent experiments in the presence of the intrinsic magnetic field of the STEM-EELS, allow observing the complete metal segregation of Ni and Fe even at 400 °C. These results provide fundamental insights into the catalytic formation of carbon-based nanocomposites using LDHs as precursors, and pave the way for the fine-tuning of their properties, with special interest in the field of energy storage and conversion.