Chinese scientists create new strategy to address single-atom catalyst limitations

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A Chinese team, together with scientists from American universities, has created a new strategy to resolve the limitations of single-atom catalysts and increase their potential for effective application, according to the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC).

Single-atom catalyst, which makes exceptionally efficient use of expensive noble metals and can bring out unique properties, is a new frontier in heterogeneous catalysis, a commonly used catalytic reaction in industry.

However, applications of single-atom catalysts are usually compromised by limited catalyst stability, or too few metal sites available for reactant binding and catalysis when anchoring the metal atoms to oxide supports.

The research team, led by Zeng Jie of the USTC, said in a study published in the journal Nature this week that they anticipate that the new strategy will take single-atom catalysts a step closer to practical applications.

By confining atomically dispersed metal atoms on oxide nanoclusters or "nanoglues", the beneficial effects of anchoring can be enhanced. The metal atoms can move but remain confined to their respective nanoglue islands, which is believed to provide a new solution for solving the contradiction between catalyst activity and stability.

The idea of stabilizing the atomically dispersed active species on an isolated support nanoparticle is fascinating and extremely convincing, said Nature's peer-reviewers of this paper. 

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