In situ manipulation of the active Au-TiO2 interface with atomic precision during CO oxidation

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Science  29 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6528, pp. 517-521
DOI: 10.1126/science.abe3558

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Rotation during reaction

Determining changes in heterogeneous catalysts under reaction conditions can provide insight into mechanisms. Under reaction conditions, not only can metal nanoparticles change shape but their interaction with the oxide support could also be affected. Yuan et al. used aberration-corrected environmental transmission electron microscopy to study gold nanoparticles on titanium surfaces at low electron beam doses. During carbon monoxide (CO) oxidation at total pressures of a few millibars and 500°C, they observed that gold nanoparticles rotated by about 10° but returned to their original position when CO was removed. Density function theory calculations indicated that rotation was induced by changes in the coverage of adsorbed molecular oxygen at the interface.

Science, this issue p. 517


The interface between metal catalyst and support plays a critical role in heterogeneous catalysis. An epitaxial interface is generally considered to be rigid, and tuning its intrinsic microstructure with atomic precision during catalytic reactions is challenging. Using aberration-corrected environmental transmission electron microscopy, we studied the interface between gold (Au) and a titanium dioxide (TiO2) support. Direct atomic-scale observations showed an unexpected dependence of the atomic structure of the Au-TiO2 interface with the epitaxial rotation of gold nanoparticles on a TiO2 surface during carbon monoxide (CO) oxidation. Taking advantage of the reversible and controllable rotation, we achieved in situ manipulation of the active Au-TiO2 interface by changing gas and temperature. This result suggests that real-time design of the catalytic interface in operating conditions may be possible.

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