Isolated Metal Atom Geometries as a Strategy for Selective Heterogeneous Hydrogenations

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Science  09 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6073, pp. 1209-1212
DOI: 10.1126/science.1215864


Facile dissociation of reactants and weak binding of intermediates are key requirements for efficient and selective catalysis. However, these two variables are intimately linked in a way that does not generally allow the optimization of both properties simultaneously. By using desorption measurements in combination with high-resolution scanning tunneling microscopy, we show that individual, isolated Pd atoms in a Cu surface substantially lower the energy barrier to both hydrogen uptake on and subsequent desorption from the Cu metal surface. This facile hydrogen dissociation at Pd atom sites and weak binding to Cu allow for very selective hydrogenation of styrene and acetylene as compared with pure Cu or Pd metal alone.