Journal article Open Access

Catalysis by clusters with precise numbers of atoms

Tyo, Eric C.; Vajda, Stefan

Clusters that contain only a small number of atoms can exhibit unique and often unexpected properties. The clusters are of particular interest in catalysis because they can act as individual active sites, and minor changes in size and composition — such as the addition or removal of a single atom — can have a substantial influence on the activity and selectivity of a reaction. Here, we review recent progress in the synthesis and characterization of well-defined subnanometre clusters, and the understanding and exploitation of their catalytic properties. We examine work on size-selected supported clusters in ultrahigh-vacuum environments and under realistic reaction conditions, and explore the use of computational methods to provide a mechanistic understanding of their catalytic properties. We also highlight the potential of size-selected clusters to provide insights into important catalytic processes and their use in the development of novel catalytic systems.

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