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Catalysts in Multi-states

A surprising discovery: A catalyst seems to contradict usual laws and can exhibit completely different activity states at the same time.

Image of a surface created with a scanning photon microscope

A research team of our Institute has observed a highly unusual behavior when studying catalytic hydrogen oxidation on rhodium: The surface of a rhodium foil can be highly chemically active in some surface regions, while in others, only a few micrometers away, it is completely inactive, and still in others oscillations between the active and inactive state occur. Such behavior was previously thought to be almost inconceivable. The results, which have now been published in the scientific journal "Nature Communications", show: Catalysis is more complicated than previously thought.

A picture of a surface and an illustration showing individual atoms

Local pattern formation in oscillatory hydrogen oxidation on rhodium: a scanning photoelectron microscope (SPEM) was used to create a chemical map of the species on the catalyst surface (left). Spectroscopic data (XPS) of the surface coverage (right) enable to develop atomic models of the associated surface activity states (middle).

The research team: H. Grönbeck, M. Stöger-Pollach, A.Steiger-Thirsfeld, L. Gregoratti, M. Amati, P. Winkler, J. Zeininger, M. Raab, Y. Suchorski, G. Rupprechter

The international research team.