Break-Up of Stepped Platinum Catalyst Surfaces by High CO Coverage

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Science  12 Feb 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5967, pp. 850-853
DOI: 10.1126/science.1182122

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From Steps to Clusters

When a flat surface of a single crystal is formed by cutting or cleavage, the atoms may move little from their bulk positions, or the surface may reconstruct as the atoms move to more energetically favorable positions. The adsorption of molecules can also change the energetic landscape and cause reconstruction. Tao et al. (p. 850; see the Perspective by Altman) examined “stepped” platinum surfaces, the (557) and (332) surfaces in which flat terraces are connected by atomic steps. Scanning tunneling microscopy and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy revealed a reversible breakup into nanometer-scale clusters when CO surface coverages were very high. Density functional theory calculations suggest that this new morphology increases the number of edge sites for adsorption and relieves unfavorable CO-CO repulsions.


Stepped single-crystal surfaces are viewed as models of real catalysts, which consist of small metal particles exposing a large number of low-coordination sites. We found that stepped platinum (Pt) surfaces can undergo extensive and reversible restructuring when exposed to carbon monoxide (CO) at pressures above 0.1 torr. Scanning tunneling microscopy and photoelectron spectroscopy studies under gaseous environments near ambient pressure at room temperature revealed that as the CO surface coverage approaches 100%, the originally flat terraces of (557) and (332) oriented Pt crystals break up into nanometer-sized clusters and revert to the initial morphology after pumping out the CO gas. Density functional theory calculations provide a rationale for the observations whereby the creation of increased concentrations of low-coordination Pt edge sites in the formed nanoclusters relieves the strong CO-CO repulsion in the highly compressed adsorbate film. This restructuring phenomenon has important implications for heterogeneous catalytic reactions.

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