Recently, Prof. Tao Zhang, the leader of laboratory of catalysts and new materials , made a new progress in single-atom catalysis by cooperation with Prof. Jingyue Liu (1000-talents scheme recipient, DICP) and Prof. Jun Li (from Tsinghua University). The new single-atom catalyst (SAC) was composed of Ir single atoms supported on FeOx with extremely low Ir loading amount (0.01 wt%). They found that the specific activity of the Ir1/FeOx SAC was one order of magnitude higher than its cluster or nanoparticle counterparts in water gas shift reaction (WGS). Extensive studies reveal that the single atoms accounted for ~70% to the total activity of catalysts containing single atoms, subnano clusters, and nanoparticles, thus serving as the most important active sites. The research results were published as a communication in J. Am. Chem. Soc.(http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/
Single-atom catalysis is a relatively new concept in the field of heterogeneous catalysis. In fundamental science it will bridge the gap between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis. In 2011, the first practical Pt1/FeOx SAC was reported by the collaborative team led by Prof. Tao Zhang, Prof. Jingyue Liu and Prof. Jun Li. Then they put forward the new concept of “single-atom catalysis” (Nat. Chem. 2011, 3, 634). In the following two years, many research groups promoted the development of this new concept. The group of Prof. Tao Zhang was also invited to write a review on “single-atom catalysis” (Acc. Chem. Res. 2013, 46, 1740).
Supported Ir catalysts are extensively applied in catalytic decomposition of propellants such as hydrazine, N2O, however, they were rarely investigated in WGS. The group of Prof. Tao Zhang found that the FeOx can not only stabilize Pt single atoms but also the Ir subnano clusters (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2012, 51, 2920). Based on these results, they successfully synthesized a new Ir1/FeOx SAC and applied it in WGS at temperature of 300 oC. Extensive studies reveal that the single atoms serve as the key active sites and exhibit a good stability at such high temperature. These series of work in single-atom catalysis by DICP not only allow the understanding of heterogeneous catalysis on an atomic level, but also have broad implications on designing supported metal catalysts with better performance and lower cost for a variety of industrial chemical reactions.