Computational and experimental insights into reactive forms of oxygen species on dynamic Ag surfaces under ethylene epoxidation conditions

Changming Liu, Devinda P. Wijewardena, Anna Sviripa, Abinaya Sampath, David W. Flaherty, Christopher Paolucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The partial oxidation of ethylene to ethylene oxide (EO) proceeds over supported Ag particles. Adsorption of molecular oxygen upon Ag forms the reactive oxygen species responsible for both epoxidation and combustion reactions, however, the catalyst surface structure and the molecular structure and identity of the reactive oxygen species present remain debated despite past use of appropriate forms of in situ spectroscopy. Specifically, there is no consensus for the molecular origin of widely reported Raman features that appear on contact with only O2 or in reactant mixtures of C2H4 and O2 at pressures and temperatures relevant for the industrial process, in part, due to the lack of concerted ab initio studies that compute vibrational frequencies for oxygen-containing Ag surfaces. Here, we elucidate the molecular structure of the catalyst surface and reactive oxygen species by coordinating spectral deconvolution of transient and steady-state surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy of Ag catalysts exposed to oxygen (2 – 101 kPa O2, 523 – 673 K) and mixtures of oxygen and ethylene (2 – 101 kPa O2, 0.5 – 9.8 kPa C2H4, 523 K) with ab initio thermodynamic modeling and vibrational frequency calculations. These comparisons suggest that during EO catalysis reconstructed surface oxides form and partially or completely encase metallic Ag particles. Raman features near 600 cm−1 that persist in O2 or cofed C2H4 represent O–Ag–O structural motifs that form only on surface oxides and high oxygen-coverage reconstructed AgxOy surfaces. We assign features centered near 810 – 840 cm−1 and at higher frequencies, which are ubiquitous throughout the literature, to dioxygen complexes partially embedded within an oxide-like overlayer that forms during exposure either to O2 or during steady-state epoxidations. Taken together our results implicate the presence of a combination of monatomic and diatomic surface oxygen species, which emerge with appreciable quantities of subsurface oxygen at temperatures and O2 pressures representative of EO catalysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-461
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Catalysis
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • (Ethylene Epoxidation
  • Density Functional Theory)
  • Silver

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Computational and experimental insights into reactive forms of oxygen species on dynamic Ag surfaces under ethylene epoxidation conditions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this