Surface reactions and chemical bonding in heterogeneous catalysis
Abstract: This thesis summarizes studies which focus on addressing, using both theoretical and experimental methods, fundamental questions about surface phenomena, such as chemical reactions and bonding, related to processes in heterogeneous catalysis. The main focus is on the theoretical approach and this aspect of the results. The included articles are collected into three categories of which the first contains detailed studies of model systems in heterogeneous catalysis. For example, the trimerization of acetylene adsorbed on Cu(110) is measured using vibrational spectroscopy and modeled within the framework of Density Functional Theory (DFT) and quantitative agreement of the reaction barriers is obtained. In the second category, aspects of fuel cell catalysis are discussed. O2 dissociation is rate-limiting for the reduction of oxygen (ORR) under certain conditions and we find that adsorbate-adsorbate interactions are decisive when modeling this reaction step. Oxidation of Pt(111) (Pt is the electrocatalyst), which may alter the overall activity of the catalyst, is found to start via a PtO-like surface oxide while formation of α-PtO2 trilayers precedes bulk oxidation. When considering alternative catalyst materials for the ORR, their stability needs to be investigated in detail under realistic conditions. The Pt/Cu(111) skin alloy offers a promising candidate but segregation of Cu atoms to the surface is induced by O adsorption. This is confirmed by modeling oxygen x-ray emission (XES) and absorption spectra of the segregated system and near-perfect agreement with experiment is obtained when vibrational interference effects are included in the computed XES. The last category shows results from femtosecond laser measurements of processes involving CO on Ru(0001). Using free-electron x-ray laser experiments a precursor state to desorption is detected and also found in simulations if van der Waals effects are included. Resonant XES can be used to distinguish two different species of CO on the surface; vibrationally hot, chemisorbed CO and CO in the precursor state. Laser-induced CO oxidation on Ru(0001) is modeled and three competing mechanisms are found. Kinetic modeling reproduces the experiment qualitatively.
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