Single atom catalysts (SACs) have shown high activity and selectivity in a growing number of chemical reactions. Many efforts aimed at unveiling the structure-property relationships underpinning these activities and developing synthesis methods for obtaining SACs with the desired structures are hindered by the paucity of experimental methods capable of probing the attributes of local structure, electronic properties, and interaction with support - features that comprise key descriptors of their activity. In this work, we describe a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches that include photon and electron spectroscopy, scattering, and imaging methods, linked by density functional theory calculations, for providing detailed and comprehensive information on the atomic structure and electronic properties of SACs. This characterization toolbox is demonstrated here using a model single atom Pt/CeO2 catalyst prepared via a sol-gel-based synthesis method. Isolated Pt atoms together with extra oxygen atoms passivate the (100) surface of nanosized ceria. A detailed picture of the local structure of Pt nearest environment emerges from this work involving the bonding of isolated Pt2+ ions at the hollow sites of perturbed (100) surface planes of the CeO2 support, as well as a substantial (and heretofore unrecognized) strain within the CeO2 lattice in the immediate vicinity of the Pt centers. The detailed information on structural attributes provided by our approach is the key for understanding and improving the properties of SACs.
- single atom
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