The drive for atom efficient catalysts with carefully controlled properties has motivated the development of single atom catalysts (SACs), aided by a variety of synthetic methods, characterization techniques, and computational modeling. The distinct capabilities of SACs for oxidation, hydrogenation, and electrocatalytic reactions have led to the optimization of activity and selectivity through composition variation. However, characterization methods such as infrared and X‐ray spectroscopy are incapable of direct observations at atomic scale. Advances in transmission electron microscopy (TEM) including aberration correction, monochromators, environmental TEM, and micro‐electro‐mechanical system based in situ holders have improved catalysis study, allowing researchers to peer into regimes previously unavailable, observing critical structural and chemical information at atomic scale. This review presents recent development and applications of TEM techniques to garner information about the location, bonding characteristics, homogeneity, and stability of SACs. Aberration corrected TEM imaging routinely achieves sub‐Ångstrom resolution to reveal the atomic structure of materials. TEM spectroscopy provides complementary information about local composition, chemical bonding, electronic properties, and atomic/molecular vibration with superior spatial resolution. In situ/operando TEM directly observe the evolution of SACs under reaction conditions. This review concludes with remarks on the challenges and opportunities for further development of TEM to study SACs.
Single‐atom and subnanocluster catalysts (SSCs) represent a highly promising class of low‐cost materials with high catalytic activity and high atom‐utilization efficiency. However, SSCs are susceptible to undergo restructuring during the reactions. Exploring the active sites of catalysts through in situ characterization techniques plays a critical role in studying reaction mechanism and guiding the design of optimum catalysts. In situ X‐ray absorption spectroscopy/small‐angle X‐ray scattering (XAS/SAXS) is promising and widely used for monitoring electronic structure, atomic configuration, and size changes of SSCs during real‐time working conditions. Unfortunately, there is no detailed summary of XAS/SAXS characterization results of SSCs. The recent advances in applying in situ XAS/SAXS to SSCs are thoroughly summarized in this review, including the atomic structure and oxidation state variations under open circuit and realistic reaction conditions. Furthermore, the reversible transformation of single‐atom catalysts (SACs) to subnanoclusters/nanoparticles and the application of in situ XAS/SAXS in subnanoclusters are discussed. Finally, the outlooks in modulating the SSCs and developing operando XAS/SAXS for SSCs are highlighted.
- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Small Methods
- Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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