In situ/operando studies for the production of hydrogen through the water-gas shift on metal oxide catalysts

In this perspective article, we show how a series of in situ techniques {X-ray diffraction (XRD), pair-distribution-function analysis (PDF), X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS), environmental transmission electron microscopy (ETEM), infrared spectroscopy (IR), ambient-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (AP-XPS)} can be combined to perform detailed studies of the structural, electronic and chemical properties of metal oxide catalysts used for the production of hydrogen through the water-gas shift reaction (WGS, CO + H2O -> H-2 + CO2). Under reaction conditions most WGS catalysts undergo chemical transformations that drastically modify their composition with respect to that obtained during the synthesis process. Experiments of time-resolved in situ XRD, XAFS, and PDF indicate that the active phase of catalysts which combine Cu, Au or Pt with oxides such as ZnO, CeO2, TiO2, CeOx/TiO2 and Fe2O3 essentially involves nanoparticles of the reduced noble metals. The oxide support undergoes partial reduction and is not a simple spectator, facilitating the dissociation of water and in some cases modifying the chemical properties of the supported metal. Therefore, to optimize the performance of these catalysts one must take into consideration the properties of the metal and oxide phases. IR and AP-XPS have been used to study the reaction mechanism for the WGS on metal oxide catalysts. Data of IR spectroscopy indicate that formate species are not necessarily involved in the main reaction path for the water-gas shift on Cu-, Au- and Pt-based catalysts. Thus, a pure redox mechanism or associative mechanisms that involve either carbonate-like (CO3, HCO3) or carboxyl (HOCO) species should be considered. In the last two decades, there have been tremendous advances in our ability to study catalytic materials under reaction conditions and we are moving towards the major goal of fully understanding how the active sites for the production of hydrogen through the WGS actually work.

Graphical abstract: In situ/operando studies for the production of hydrogen through the water-gas shift on metal oxide catalysts

 

Ref: Rodriguez, J.A., Hanson, J.C., Stacchiola, D., and Senanayake, S.D. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2013. 15(29): p. 12004-12025. DOI: 10.1039/C3CP50416F

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