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Supported transition metal nanoparticles – what makes a good catalyst?

Date 18 March 2019 Time 11:00 - 12:00
Location AMOLF Lecture Room
Speaker Petra de Jongh (University of Utrecht, Utrecht)
Category Public Colloquium


Catalysts are crucial for the production of fuels, chemicals and materials and for energy storage and conversion. They often consist of transition metal nanoparticles (<10 nm) as an active phase, supported on a porous material that provides stability to the system, but has 3D open porosity to allow diffusion of reactants and products. The effectiveness of a catalyst is a combination of three qualities: activity, selectivity and stability. All three are not only determined by the composition of the metal nanoparticle, but also greatly depend on factors such as the exact particle size (and particle size distribution), a redistribution of atoms within the nanoparticle under reaction conditions, the interaction between the metal nanoparticle and the support, and small amounts of additives (‘promoters’) which can modify for instance the electronic properties or provide specific sites.

We study the performance of supported metal nanoparticles using 3D model supports (ordered mesoporous oxides and structural carbons) as a key tool. They allow mimicking realistic catalyst systems and conditions (100-400 oC, 1-50 bar pressure, H2, CO, CO2, alkenes, H2O, O2  feeds), while their highly defined morphology and surface properties facilitate high precision in the variation of individual structural parameters, characterization and data interpretation.

In this presentation I will highlight a few recent examples of research based on relatively noble metal catalysts, Au, Ag and Cu, used for industrially relevant processes.1-5 Relatively little is known about for instance the intrinsic effect of metal particle size, and the mechanisms of particle growth under real reaction conditions in 3D supported systems. We varied particle parameters such as size, size distribution, and average particle density, but also collective properties such as the nanospatial distribution of the metal nanoparticles over the support, and support pore size, window size, connectivity (for instance 1D or 3D porosity), and surface. Our aim is to unravel the interplay of different structural parameters, and obtain a more systematic understanding of what determines the activity, stability and selectivity of catalysts under realistic reaction conditions.

  1. “Towards stable catalysts by control over the collective features of supported metal nanoparticles”,
  2. Prieto, J. Zecevic, K.P. de Jong, P.E. de Jongh, Nature Mater. 12 (2013), 34.
  3. Structure sensitivity of Cu and CuZn catalysts relevant to industrial methanol synthesis, van den Berg, G.  Prieto, G. Korpershoek, L. van der Wal, A.J. van Bunningen, S. Lægsgaard-Jørgensen, P.E. de Jongh, K.P. de Jong, Nature Comm. 7 (2016), 13057.
  4. Preparation and particle size effets of Ag/α-Al2O3 catalysts for ethylene epoxidation, J. van den Reijen, S. Kanungo, T.A.J. Welling, M. Versluijs-Helder, T.A. Nijhuis, K.P. de Jong, P.E. de Jongh, J. Catal. 356 (2017), 65-74.
  5. Superior Stability of Au/SiO2 Compared to Au/TiO2 Catalysts for the Selective Hydrogenation of Butadiene, N. Masoud, L. Delannoy, H. Schaink, A. van der Eerden, J.W. de Rijk, T.A.G. Silva, D. Banerjee, J.D. Meeldijk, K.P. de Jong, C. Louis, P.E. de Jongh, ACS Catal. 7 (2017), 5594-5603.
  6. In Situ Observation of Atomic Redistribution in Alloying Gold-Silver Nanorods, J. van der Hoeven, Jessi;
  7.   Welling, T. Silva, J.R. van den Reijen, C. a Fontaine, X. Carrier, C. Louis, A. van Blaaderen, P.E. de Jongh, ACS Nano 12, (2018), 8467-8476.