Microenvironment modulation of single-atom catalysts and their roles in electrochemical energy conversion

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Science Advances  23 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 39, eabb6833
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb6833


Single-atom catalysts (SACs) have become the most attractive frontier research field in heterogeneous catalysis. Since the atomically dispersed metal atoms are commonly stabilized by ionic/covalent interactions with neighboring atoms, the geometric and electronic structures of SACs depend greatly on their microenvironment, which, in turn, determine the performances in catalytic processes. In this review, we will focus on the recently developed strategies of SAC synthesis, with attention on the microenvironment modulation of single-atom active sites of SACs. Furthermore, experimental and computational advances in understanding such microenvironment in association to the catalytic activity and mechanisms are summarized and exemplified in the electrochemical applications, including the water electrolysis and O2/CO2/N2 reduction reactions. Last, by highlighting the prospects and challenges for microenvironment engineering of SACs, we wish to shed some light on the further development of SACs for electrochemical energy conversion.

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