Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Materials Science and Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. T. John Balk


Nanostructured noble metals exhibit novel physical, mechanical and chemical behavior, and hold promise for applications such as gas sensing and electron emission. A strong emphasis was placed on the processing and characterization of these materials, in the form of nanoporous or nanocrystalline thin films. Palladium-based and osmium-ruthenium alloys were investigated in this dissertation research and will be presented as follows:

(1) Preparation and Characterization of Nanoporous Metal Thin Films

(2) Characterization of Osmium-Ruthenium Coatings

Nanoporous palladium (np-Pd) thin films were prepared by dealloying co-sputtered palladium-nickel precursor alloys. Nanoporous structures were created with 3-D interconnected ligaments and open pores. Size of ligaments and pores was ~5 nm, achieved with a novel processing method developed in this study. Hydrogen cycling tests performed with np-Pd films demonstrated a significant improvement in sensitivity to hydrogen and response time for sensing. Effects of alloying element (Ni), film thickness, local stress and pore/ligament size on hydrogen cycling behavior were investigated in detail. Additionally, nanoporous gold and gold-palladium thin films were studied to clarify the evolution of microstructure during dealloying, including the formation of nanoporous structure and effects of substrate curvature on dealloying behavior. The results from this project have yielded a new understanding of dealloying as well as an ideal coating material for hydrogen sensing.

Nanocrystalline osmium-ruthenium (Os-Ru) thin films were deposited on porous tungsten substrates with varied sputtering parameters. These parameters were mapped to microstructure, film texture and film composition in samples that were comparable to commercial devices. Using this map, Os-Ru films can be produced with higher stability during annealing and/or high-temperature operation. These results should lead to Os-Ru top coatings that increase the lifetime and emission performance of dispenser cathodes.