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Journal Article

Heterogeneous catalysis on the atomic scale


Ertl,  Gerhard
Physical Chemistry, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;

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Ertl, G. (2001). Heterogeneous catalysis on the atomic scale. The Chemical Record, 1(1), 33-45. doi:10.1002/1528-0691(2001)1:1<33:AID-TCR6>3.0.CO;2-V.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0011-18F8-5
Information about the elementary processes underlying heterogeneous catalysis may be obtained by investigating well-defined single crystal surfaces. The success of this "surface science" approach for "'real" catalysis can be demonstrated, for example, with ammonia synthesis. The progress of catalytic reactions can be observed on an atomic scale by applying scanning tunneling microscopy and other surface physical techniques, as is shown with different examples in this paper: CO oxidation on a Pt(111) surface proceeds preferentially along the boundaries between adsorbed O and CO patches. Ru is practically inactive for the same reaction under lower pressure conditions but is transformed into RuO2 under atmospheric pressure conditions, where part of the surface Ru atoms function as coordinatively unsaturated sites (cus). In contrast, in the hydrogen oxidation reaction on Pt(111), an autocatalytic reaction step comes into prominence, and is responsible for the formation of propagating concentration patterns on the surface as a characteristic of nonlinear dynamics. Additionally, the limits of the concept of thermal equilibrium in surface rate processes are explored by applying ultrafast (femtosecond) laser techniques.