The identity of active species in supported gold catalysts for low temperature carbon monoxide oxidation remains an unsettled debate. With large amounts of experimental evidence supporting theories of either gold nanoparticles or sub-nm gold species being active, it was recently proposed that a size-dependent activity hierarchy should exist. Here we study the diverging catalytic behaviours after heat treatment of Au/FeOx materials prepared via co-precipitation and deposition precipitation methods. After ruling out any support effects, the gold particle size distributions in different catalysts are quantitatively studied using aberration corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM). A counting protocol is developed to reveal the true particle size distribution from HAADF-STEM images, which reliably includes all the gold species present. Correlation of the populations of the various gold species present with catalysis results demonstrate that a size-dependent activity hierarchy must exist in the Au/FeOx catalyst.
He, Q., Freakley, S. J., Edwards, J. K., Carley, A. F., Borisevich, A. Y., Mineo, Y., Haruta, M., Hutchings, G. J., & Kiely, C. J. (2016). Population and hierarchy of active species in gold iron oxide catalysts for carbon monoxide oxidation. Nature Communications, 7, 1-8. . https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms12905