Development and application of operando TEM to a ruthenium catalyst for CO oxidation

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Operando transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is an extension of in-situ TEM in which the performance of the material being observed is measured simultaneously. This is of great value, since structure-performance relationships lie at the heart of materials science. For catalyst

Operando transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is an extension of in-situ TEM in which the performance of the material being observed is measured simultaneously. This is of great value, since structure-performance relationships lie at the heart of materials science. For catalyst materials, like the SiO2-supported Ru nanoparticles studied, the important performance metric, catalyst activity, is measured inside the microscope by determining the gas composition during imaging. This is accomplished by acquisition of electron energy loss spectra (EELS) of the gas in the environmental TEM while catalysis is taking place. In this work, automated methods for rapidly quantifying low-loss and core-loss EELS of gases were developed. A new sample preparation method was also established to increase catalytic conversion inside a differentially-pumped environmental TEM, and the maximum CO conversion observed was about 80%. A system for mixing gases and delivering them to the environmental TEM was designed and built, and a method for locating and imaging nanoparticles in zone axis orientations while minimizing electron dose rate was determined.

After atomic resolution images of Ru nanoparticles observed during CO oxidation were obtained, the shape and surface structures of these particles was investigated. A Wulff model structure for Ru particles was compared to experimental images both by manually rotating the model, and by automatically determining a matching orientation using cross-correlation of shape signatures. From this analysis, it was determined that most Ru particles are close to Wulff-shaped during CO oxidation. While thick oxide layers were not observed to form on Ru during CO oxidation, thin RuO2 layers on the surface of Ru nanoparticles were imaged with atomic resolution for the first time. The activity of these layers is discussed in the context of the literature on the subject, which has thus far been inconclusive. We conclude that disordered oxidized ruthenium, rather than crystalline RuO2 is the most active species.