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Surface molecular imprinting over supported metal catalysts for size-dependent selective hydrogenation reactions


Molecular imprinting of polymer matrices enables the creation of template-shaped cavities with high affinity for molecules of given shape and size. Here we introduce a surface molecular imprinting strategy to control the hydrogenation selectivity of various aromatic molecules over a supported palladium catalyst. This strategy involves the sequential adsorption over the metal surface of an aromatic template molecule followed by poisoners, resulting in the formation of non-poisoned active islands of predetermined shape and size. Because of steric constraints, these active islands exhibit high selectivity in the chemical conversion of aromatic molecules that correspond in size and shape to the templates. The elaborated strategy enables a practical application relevant to selective hydrogenation and removal of carcinogenic benzene from mixtures of aromatics.

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Fig. 1: Illustration of the molecular imprinting strategy over a palladium surface.
Fig. 2: Catalytic performance and characterizations.
Fig. 3: FTIR studies of the imprinted Pd/SiO2 catalyst.
Fig. 4: Characterization of the imprinted catalysts.
Fig. 5: TEM analysis for various samples.
Fig. 6: Correlation between bare and poisoned Pd.
Fig. 7: Hydrogenation of aromatics over the studied catalysts.
Fig. 8: Catalytic results for hydrogenation of aromatics over Pd/SiO2 and Ben-Print-Pd/SiO2.

Data availability

All data are available from the authors upon reasonable request. Source data for all relevant catalytic runs are provided and are also available via the NextCloud repository of Lille University (


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The authors thank Solvay and the University of Lille for a stipend for the PhD research of D.W. and financial support of this work. The authors thank the Chevreul Institute (FR 2638) for its help in the development of this work. The authors thank O. Gardoll, B. Revel and M. Capron for characterizations of the catalysts. The Chevreul Institute and the Microscopy Platform in Lille are supported by the Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche et de l’Innovation, the CNRS, the Région Hauts-de-France, the Métropole Européenne de Lille and the Fonds Européen de Développement des Régions.

Author information




V.V.O., A.Y.K. and D.W. conceived the idea for this work. All authors contributed to the design of the experimental setup and experimental procedures. D.W. performed most of the experiments with the help of B.G. and W.Y.H. TEM analysis was performed by A.A., W.B., M.M. and O.E. XPS analysis was performed by E.I.V. O.V.S performed the XAS analysis, and N.N. performed the ToF-SIMS measurements. The project was directed by A.Y.K., V.V.O and W.Z. The manuscript was written through contributions of all authors. All authors have given approval to the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Andrei Y. Khodakov or Vitaly V. Ordomsky.

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Wu, D., Baaziz, W., Gu, B. et al. Surface molecular imprinting over supported metal catalysts for size-dependent selective hydrogenation reactions. Nat Catal 4, 595–606 (2021).

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