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Catalysis by Supported Single Metal Atoms

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Department of Physics, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287, United States
Cite this: ACS Catal. 2017, 7, 1, 34–59
Publication Date (Web):October 18, 2016
Copyright © 2016 American Chemical Society

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    The recent explosive growth in research on catalysis by supported single metal atoms proves the scientific interest in this new frontier of heterogeneous catalysis. A supported single-atom catalyst (SAC) contains only isolated individual atoms dispersed on, and/or coordinated with, the surface atoms of an appropriate support. SACs not only maximize the atom efficiency of expensive metals but also provide an alternative strategy to tune the activity and selectivity of a catalytic reaction. When single metal atoms are strongly anchored onto high-surface-area supports, SACs offer a great potential to significantly transform the field of heterogeneous catalysis, which has been critical to enabling many important technologies. In this Perspective, I discuss the most recent advances in preparing, characterizing, and catalytically testing SACs with a focus on correlating the structural perspective of the anchored single metal atoms to the observed catalytic performances. The grand challenge to successfully developing practical SACs is to find appropriate approaches to strongly anchor the single metal atoms and to keep them stable and functional during the desired catalytic reactions. I will highlight the recent advances to overcome this barrier to develop SACs for a variety of important catalytic transformations of molecules.

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