Distribution of Catalytically Active Sites on Clean Metal Surfaces


IN spite of the fundamental and technological importance of heterogeneous catalysts, it has still not been possible to decide whether their catalytic activity is located at a few special sites or is distributed over much of the surface. In an attempt to provide an answer to this problem, in at least one case, we have chosen as a model system a simple and well characterized heterogeneous reaction; the equilibration of a mixture of the nitrogen isotopes 30N2 and 28N2 by a clean, hot tungsten wire. This is one of the few surface reactions for which there is quantitative agreement between the results obtained in different laboratories1,2. The catalytic activity of the tungsten can be measured conveniently and accurately by using a mass spectrometer to determine the composition of a mixture of nitrogen isotopes as the gas streams through the apparatus containing the wire. An increase in the peak due to mass 29 (14N15N) when the filament is heated shows that the equilibration reaction is occurring.

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GASSER, R., VAIGHT, P. Distribution of Catalytically Active Sites on Clean Metal Surfaces. Nature 221, 166–167 (1969). https://doi.org/10.1038/221166a0

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