Site-selective CO disproportionation mediated by localized surface plasmon resonance excited by electron beam

Nat Mater. 2019 Jun;18(6):614-619. doi: 10.1038/s41563-019-0342-3. Epub 2019 Apr 15.


Recent reports of hot-electron-induced dissociation of small molecules, such as hydrogen, demonstrate the potential application of plasmonic nanostructures for harvesting light to initiate catalytic reactions. Theories have assumed that plasmonic catalysis is mediated by the energy transfer from nanoparticles to adsorbed molecules during the dephasing of localized surface plasmon (LSP) modes optically excited on plasmonic nanoparticles. However, LSP-induced chemical processes have not been resolved at a sub-nanoparticle scale to identify the active sites responsible for the energy transfer. Here, we exploit the LSP resonance excited by electron beam on gold nanoparticles to drive CO disproportionation at room temperature in an environmental scanning transmission electron microscope. Using in situ electron energy-loss spectroscopy with a combination of density functional theory and electromagnetic boundary element method calculations, we show at the subparticle level that the active sites on gold nanoparticles are where preferred gas adsorption sites and the locations of maximum LSP electric field amplitude (resonance antinodes) superimpose. Our findings provide insight into plasmonic catalysis and will be valuable in designing plasmonic antennas for low-temperature catalytic processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't