American Chemical Society
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Electron Microscopy Study of Gold Nanoparticles Deposited on Transition Metal Oxides

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journal contribution
posted on 2013-08-20, 00:00 authored by Tomoki Akita, Masanori Kohyama, Masatake Haruta
Many researchers have investigated the catalytic performance ofgold nanoparticles (GNPs) supported on metal oxides for various catalytic reactions of industrial importance. These studies have consistently shown that the catalytic activity and selectivity depend on the size of GNPs, the kind of metal oxide supports, and the gold/metal oxide interface structure. Although researchers have proposed several structural models for the catalytically active sites and have identified the specific electronic structures of GNPs induced by the quantum effect, recent experimental and theoretical studies indicate that the perimeter around GNPs in contact with the metal oxide supports acts as an active site in many reactions. Thus, it is of immense importance to investigate the detailed structures of the perimeters and the contact interfaces of gold/metal oxide systems by using electron microscopy at an atomic scale.This Account describes our investigation, at the atomic scale using electron microscopy, of GNPs deposited on metal oxides. In particular, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) and high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy (HAADF-STEM) are valuable tools to observe local atomic structures, as has been successfully demonstrated for various nanoparticles, surfaces, and material interfaces. TEM can be applied to real powder catalysts as received without making special specimens, in contrast to what is typically necessary to observe bulk materials. For precise structure analyses at an atomic scale, model catalysts prepared by using well-defined single-crystalline substrates are also adopted for TEM observations. Moreover, aberration-corrected TEM, which has high spatial resolution under 0.1 nm, is a promising tool to observe the interface structure between GNPs and metal oxide supports including oxygen atoms at the interfaces. The oxygen atoms in particular play an important role in the behavior of gold/metal oxide interfaces, because they may participate in catalytic reaction steps. Detailed information about the interfacial structures between GNPs and metal oxides provides valuable structure models for theoretical calculations which can elucidate the local electronic structure effective for activating a reactant molecule. Based on our observations with HRTEM and HAADF-STEM, we report the detailed structure of gold/metal oxide interfaces.