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Single-Atom High-Temperature Catalysis on a Rh1O5 Cluster for Production of Syngas from Methane

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-09-30, 13:36 authored by Yu Tang, Victor Fung, Xiaoyan Zhang, Yuting Li, Luan Nguyen, Tomohiro Sakata, Kotaro Higashi, De-en Jiang, Franklin Feng Tao
Single-atom catalysts are a relatively new type of catalyst active for numerous reactions but mainly for chemical transformations performed at low or intermediate temperatures. Here we report that singly dispersed Rh1O5 clusters on TiO2 can catalyze the partial oxidation of methane (POM) at high temperatures with a selectivity of 97% for producing syngas (CO + H2) and high activity with a long catalytic durability at 650 °C. The long durability results from the substitution of a Ti atom of the TiO2 surface lattice by Rh1, which forms a singly dispersed Rh1 atom coordinating with five oxygen atoms (Rh1O5) and an undercoordinated environment but with nearly saturated bonding with oxygen atoms. Computational studies show the back-donation of electrons from the dz2 orbital of the singly dispersed Rh1 atom to the unoccupied orbital of adsorbed CHn (n > 1) results in the charge depletion of the Rh1 atom and a strong binding of CHn to Rh1. This strong binding decreases the barrier for activating C–H, thus leading to high activity of Rh1/TiO2. A cationic Rh1 single atom anchored on TiO2 exhibits a weak binding to atomic carbon, in contrast to the strong binding of the metallic Rh surface to atomic carbon. The weak binding of atomic carbon to Rh1 atoms and the spatial isolation of Rh1 on TiO2 prevent atomic carbon from coupling on Rh1/TiO2 to form carbon layers, making Rh1/TiO2 resistant to carbon deposition than supported metal catalysts for POM. The highly active, selective, and durable high-temperature single-atom catalysis performed at 650 °C demonstrates an avenue of application of single-atom catalysis to chemical transformations at high temperatures.