Correlating particle size and shape of supported Ru/gamma-Al2O3 catalysts with NH3 decomposition activity

J Am Chem Soc. 2009 Sep 2;131(34):12230-9. doi: 10.1021/ja902587k.


While ammonia synthesis and decomposition on Ru are known to be structure-sensitive reactions, the effect of particle shape on controlling the particle size giving maximum turnover frequency (TOF) is not understood. By controlling the catalyst pretreatment conditions, we have varied the particle size and shape of supported Ru/gamma-Al(2)O(3) catalysts. The Ru particle shape was reconstructed by combining microscopy, chemisorption, and extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) techniques. We show that the particle shape can change from a round one, for smaller particles, to an elongated, flat one, for larger particles, with suitable pretreatment. Density functional theory calculations suggest that the calcination most likely leads to planar structures. We show for the first time that the number of active (here B(5)) sites is highly dependent on particle shape and increases with particle size up to 7 nm for flat nanoparticles. The maximum TOF (based on total exposed Ru atoms) and number of active (B(5)) sites occur at approximately 7 nm for elongated nanoparticles compared to at approximately 1.8-3 nm for hemispherical nanoparticles. A complete, first-principles based microkinetic model is constructed that can quantitatively describe for the first time the effect of varying particle size and shape on Ru activity and provide further support of the characterization results. In very small nanoparticles, particle size polydispersity (due to the presence of larger particles) appears to be responsible for the observed activity.