Hard and soft X-ray microscopy and tomography in catalysis: bridging the different time and length scales

Chem Soc Rev. 2010 Dec;39(12):4741-53. doi: 10.1039/c0cs00036a. Epub 2010 Oct 26.


X-ray microscopic techniques are excellent and presently emerging techniques for chemical imaging of heterogeneous catalysts. Spatially resolved studies in heterogeneous catalysis require the understanding of both the macro and the microstructure, since both have decisive influence on the final performance of the industrially applied catalysts. A particularly important aspect is the study of the catalysts during their preparation, activation and under operating conditions, where X-rays have an inherent advantage due to their good penetration length especially in the hard X-ray regime. Whereas reaction cell design for hard X-rays is straightforward, recently smart in situ cells have also been reported for the soft X-ray regime. In the first part of the tutorial review, the constraints from a catalysis view are outlined, then the scanning and full-field X-ray microscopy as well as coherent X-ray diffraction imaging techniques are described together with the challenging design of suitable environmental cells. Selected examples demonstrate the application of X-ray microscopy and tomography to monitor structural gradients in catalytic reactors and catalyst preparation with micrometre resolution but also the possibility to follow structural changes in the sub-100 nm regime. Moreover, the potential of the new synchrotron radiation sources with higher brilliance, recent milestones in focusing of hard X-rays as well as spatiotemporal studies are highlighted. The tutorial review concludes with a view on future developments in the field of X-ray microscopy that will have strong impact on the understanding of catalysts in the future and should be combined with in situ electron microscopic studies on the nanoscale and other spectroscopic studies like microRaman, microIR and microUV-vis on the macroscale.