Superfluid helium nanoreactor takes single atom catalysis understanding to the next level

Dr Yang and his co-workers in the NanoChemistry Group discovered single gold atoms within van der Waals complexes can serve as catalysts for the first time. This was observed in ionization-induced chemistry of 1,6-hexanediol-Au and 1,8-octanediol-Au complexes formed in superfluid helium nanodroplets, where the addition of gold atom(s) made C2H4+ the sole prominent product in dissociative reactions. Quantum calculations revealed that the gold atom significantly weakens both C-O bonds while strengthening all of the C-C bonds in the meantime, making the C-O bonds the weakest bonds in the molecules. This work suggests a new strategy in catalysis and may add to rational design of catalysts. The finding was published in Chemical Science 11, 8502–8505 (2020), and was recently highlighted by Chemistry World


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