Research ArticleChemistry

A single iron site confined in a graphene matrix for the catalytic oxidation of benzene at room temperature

Science Advances  04 Dec 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 11, e1500462
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500462

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Abstract

Coordinatively unsaturated (CUS) iron sites are highly active in catalytic oxidation reactions; however, maintaining the CUS structure of iron during heterogeneous catalytic reactions is a great challenge. Here, we report a strategy to stabilize single-atom CUS iron sites by embedding highly dispersed FeN4 centers in the graphene matrix. The atomic structure of FeN4 centers in graphene was revealed for the first time by combining high-resolution transmission electron microscopy/high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy with low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy. These confined single-atom iron sites exhibit high performance in the direct catalytic oxidation of benzene to phenol at room temperature, with a conversion of 23.4% and a yield of 18.7%, and can even proceed efficiently at 0°C with a phenol yield of 8.3% after 24 hours. Both experimental measurements and density functional theory calculations indicate that the formation of the Fe═O intermediate structure is a key step to promoting the conversion of benzene to phenol. These findings could pave the way toward highly efficient nonprecious catalysts for low-temperature oxidation reactions in heterogeneous catalysis and electrocatalysis.

  • single atom site
  • coordinatively unsaturated iron
  • benzene oxidation
  • Graphene
  • non-precious catalyst

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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