The ability to harness the catalytic oxidation of hydrocarbons is critical for both clean energy production and air pollutant elimination, which requires a detailed understanding of the dynamic role of the nanophase structure and surface reactivity under the reaction conditions. We report here findings of an in situ/operando study of such details of a ternary nanoalloy under the propane oxidation condition using high-energy synchrotron X-ray diffraction coupled to atomic pair distribution function (HE-XRD/PDF) analysis and diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy (DRIFTS). The catalysts are derived by alloying Pt with different combinations of second (Pd) and third (Ni) transition metals, showing a strong dependence of the catalytic activity on the Ni content. The evolution of the phase structure of the nanoalloy is characterized by HE-XRD/PDF probing of the lattice strain, whereas the surface activity is monitored by DRIFTS detection of the surface intermediate formation during the oxidation of propane by oxygen. The results reveal the dominance of the surface intermediate species featuring a lower degree of oxygenation upon the first C-C bond cleavage on the lower-Ni-content nanoalloy and a higher degree of oxygenation upon the second C-C bond cleavage on the higher-Ni-content nanoalloy. The face-centered-cubic-type phase structures of the nanoalloys under the oxidation condition are shown to exhibit Ni-content-dependent changes of lattice strains, featuring the strongest strain with little variation for the higher-Ni-content nanoalloy, in contrast to the weaker strains with oscillatory variation for the lower-Ni-content nanoalloys. This process is also accompanied by oxygenation of the metal components in the nanoalloy, showing a higher degree of oxygenation for the higher-Ni-content nanoalloy. These subtle differences in phase structure and surface activity changes correlate with the Ni-composition-dependent catalytic activity of the nanoalloys, which sheds a fresh light on the correlation between the dynamic change of atomic strains and the surface reactivity and has significant implications for the design of oxidation catalysts with enhanced activities.
- and lattice strain
- diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy
- in situ/operando
- pair distribution function
- propane oxidation
- synchrotron X-ray diffraction
- ternary nanoalloys