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Volume 1 Issue 3, March 2018

Visualizing single-site reactivity

Low-temperature CO oxidation is industrially and environmentally important, and despite recent reports of facile conversion on single metal sites, debate over the nature and function of these sites exists. Therrien et al. unambiguously demonstrate that individual platinum atoms in a neutral charge state can perform this oxidation chemistry efficiently around room temperature, and further elucidate the mechanism with theory.

See Therrien et al.

Image: Cortland Johnson (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory). Cover Design: Karen Moore.


  • In situ studies are very important to advance our comprehension of catalytic reactions and are expected to be boosted by the development of more powerful analytical tools.



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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Ammonia synthesis is an energy-intensive process due to the high activation barrier for N2 dissociation, which is the rate-determining step on conventional catalysts. Now, a ternary intermetallic catalyst is reported to be capable of catalysing this reaction through an alternative pathway.

    • Malte Behrens
    News & Views
  • Lyases are enzymes that catalyse the breaking of chemical bonds. Now, reversing this reaction towards carbon–nitrogen bond formation allows for the synthesis of various chiral aminocarboxylic acids such as the potential antibiotic co-drug aspergillomarasmine A.

    • Romas J. Kazlauskas
    News & Views
  • Fluctuations in the composition of reactant gas mixtures often lead to activity and selectivity variations in automotive catalysts. Now, time-resolved operando spectroscopy sheds light on the transient changes of surface species for a commercially applied catalyst and leads to process optimization.

    • Feng Gao
    • János Szanyi
    News & Views
  • Solvents are used pervasively in catalytic studies to enhance kinetics and selectivities. Now, the analysis of biomass upgrading has been remarkably simplified by elucidating the solvation effects of dehydration for key compounds with solvent-enabled control of reactivity.

    • Hu Li
    • Richard L. Smith Jr
    News & Views
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  • Ammonia synthesis is an energy-intensive process due to the high activation barrier for N2 dissociation. Here, Hosono and co-workers show that the intermetallic compound LaCoSi can lower the energy requirement for N2 activation and shift the rate-determining step of the process to NH x formation under mild conditions.

    • Yutong Gong
    • Jiazhen Wu
    • Hideo Hosono
  • Aminocarboxylic acids are used in a broad range of domestic products and industrial applications. Here, Poelarends and co-workers report a chemoenzymatic route for the asymmetric synthesis of the antibiotic co-drug candidate aspergillomarasmine A and related aminocarboxylic acids by exploiting the broad substrate promiscuity of ethylenediamine-N,N′-disuccinic acid (EDDS) lyase.

    • Haigen Fu
    • Jielin Zhang
    • Gerrit J. Poelarends
  • Single-atom catalysts are of growing importance, but the nature of their structure and reactivity remains under debate. Here, Sykes and co-workers show that single Pt atoms on a well-defined Cu2O surface are capable of performing low-temperature CO oxidation, and provide data on the binding site and electronic structure of the Pt atoms.

    • Andrew J. Therrien
    • Alyssa J. R. Hensley
    • E. Charles H. Sykes
  • The choice of solvent system has important implications regarding the catalytic upgrading of carbohydrate-containing biomass. Here, Dumesic and co-workers study solvation effects in organic solvent/water mixtures and employ the obtained information to control the rate and selectivity of the acid-catalysed dehydration of fructose.

    • Max A. Mellmer
    • Chotitath Sanpitakseree
    • James A. Dumesic
  • For practical applications, water-oxidation catalysts should be inexpensive, active and stable. Here, Cronin and co-workers dope molybdenum into the Weakley sandwich-type polyoxometalate, showing that this dramatically lowers the overpotential for the oxygen evolution reaction while maintaining the stability against oxidation.

    • Mercè Martin-Sabi
    • Joaquín Soriano-López
    • Leroy Cronin
  • Small metal nanoclusters often display high catalytic activity, but also low stability due to aggregation. Here, Xu and co-workers show that subnanometre Pd clusters can be contained within porous organic cages. Not only do the particles retain high catalytic activity, they also show excellent solubility and stability.

    • Xinchun Yang
    • Jian-Ke Sun
    • Qiang Xu
  • Selective catalytic reduction is employed at the exhaust of diesel vehicles to abate nitrogen oxide emissions. Now, guided by time-resolved X-ray absorption spectroscopy and transient experiments using Cu-SSZ-13 as the catalyst, the authors unravel important features of the reaction mechanism that allow the performance of the catalyst to be improved.

    • Adrian Marberger
    • Andrey W. Petrov
    • Davide Ferri
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