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Volume 35, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0032-1400


In many chemical reactions catalysed on platinum surfaces it is necessary that two reactants be adsorbed simultaneously. Often one reactant is so strongly adsorbed that it blocks the adsorption of the second; such a reaction is said to be self-poisoned. An example is the oxidation of carbon monoxide, where carbon monoxide forms a strongly adsorbed monolayer which effectively blocks the adsorption and decomposition of oxygen. Photoelectron microscopy shows, however, that oxygen can penetrate the carbon monoxide film at special defect sites, typically inclusions or microdust particles, on the platinum. From these special adsorption sites the oxygen rapidly reacts with neighbouring adsorbed carbon monoxide. Reaction fronts initiate at these sites and rapidly propagate across the surface. A second type of self-poisoning occurs in decomposition reactions for which vacant surface sites are necessary; for instance, the decomposition of nitric oxide in the presence of hydrogen. A monolayer film of nitric oxide poisons the reaction not by blocking the adsorption of hydrogen, but rather by preventing the dissociation of nitric oxide which requires a neighbouring unoccupied surface site. Empty sites are provided on impurity particles which weakly adsorb nitric oxide and initiate reaction fronts. Impurity sites also initiate reaction fronts when graphite is removed from platinum by oxidation. In order to avoid self-poisoning in catalytic reactions, these studies suggest that special adsorption sites should be introduced artificially to provide vacant sites by adsorbing only weakly the reactants causing self-poisoning.


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