Observing Metal-Catalyzed Chemical Reactions in Situ Using Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy on Pd−Au Nanoshells

Insight into the nature of transient reaction intermediates and mechanistic pathways involved in heterogeneously catalyzed chemical reactions is obtainable from a number of surface spectroscopic techniques. Carrying out these investigations under actual reaction conditions is preferred but remains challenging, especially for catalytic reactions that occur in water. Here, we report the direct spectroscopic study of the catalytic hydrodechlorination of 1,1-dichloroethene in H2O using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). With Pd islands grown on Au nanoshell films, this reaction can be followed in situ using SERS, exploiting the high enhancements and large active area of Au nanoshell SERS substrates, the transparency of Raman spectroscopy to aqueous solvents, and the catalytic activity enhancement of Pd by the underlying Au metal. The formation and subsequent transformation of several adsorbate species was observed. These results provide the first direct evidence of the room-temperature catalytic hydrodechlorination of a chlorinated solvent, a potentially important pathway for groundwater cleanup, as a sequence of dechlorination and hydrogenation steps. More broadly, the results highlight the exciting prospects of studying catalytic processes in water in situ, like those involved in biomass conversion and proton-exchange membrane fuel cells.