Transition metal nanostructures coated with a contiguous, conformal submonolayer-to-multilayer noble metal film and their method of manufacture are described. The manufacturing process involves the initial formation of suitably sized transition metal or alloy nanostructures which may be nanorods, nanobars, or nanowires. A monolayer of a non-noble metal is deposited onto the surface of the nanostructures by underpotential deposition. This is followed by the galvanic displacement of the non-noble metal by a second metal to yield a conformal coating of a monolayer of the second metal on the surface of the nanostructures. The replacement of atoms of the first metal by atoms of the second metal is an irreversible and spontaneous redox reaction which involves the replacement of a non noble metal by a more noble metal. The process can be controlled and repeated to obtain the desired film coverage. The resulting coated nanostructures provide heightened catalytic activity and can be used as high-performance electrodes in fuel cells.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT LICENSE RIGHTS
 The present invention was made with government support under Grant No. DE-AC02-98CH10886, awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The United States government has certain rights in the invention.