Single-atom catalysts often show exceptionally high performance per metal loading. However, the isolated atom sites tend to agglomerate during preparation and/or high-temperature reaction. Here we show that in the case of Rh/Al2O3 this deactivation can be prevented by dissolution/exsolution of metal atoms into/from the support. We design and synthesise a series of single-atom catalysts, characterise them and study the impact of exsolution in the dry reforming of methane at 700-900 degrees C. The catalysts' performance increases with increasing reaction time, as the rhodium atoms migrate from the subsurface to the surface. Although the oxidation state of rhodium changes from Rh(iii) to Rh(ii) or Rh(0) during catalysis, atom migration is the main factor affecting catalyst performance. The implications of these results for preparing real-life catalysts are discussed.

Catal. Sci. Technol.
Materials & Surface Science for EUV Lithography

Mekkering, M., Biemolt, J., Graaf, J., Lin, Y.-A., van Leest, N., Troglia, A., … Yan, N. (2023). Dry reforming of methane over single-atom Rh/Al2O3 catalysts prepared by exsolution. Catal. Sci. Technol., 13(7), 2255–2260. doi:10.1039/d2cy02126a