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  1. Defects may display high reactivity because the specific arrangement of atoms differs from crystalline surfaces. We demonstrate that high-temperature steam pretreatment of palladium catalysts provides a 12-fold increase in the mass-specific reaction rate for carbon-hydrogen (C–H) activation in methane oxidation compared with conventional pretreatments. Through a combination of experimental and theoretical methods, we demonstrate that an increase in the grain boundary density through crystal twinning is achieved during the steam pretreatment and oxidation and is responsible for the increased reactivity. The grain boundaries are highly stable during reaction and show specific rates at least two orders of magnitude higher than other sites on the palladium on alumina (Pd/Al 2 O 3 ) catalysts. Theoretical calculations show that strain introduced by the defective structure can enhance C–H bond activation. Introduction of grain boundaries through laser ablation led to further rate increases. 
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