(449b) A First-Principles Comparison of Heterogeneous and Electrocatalytic Alcohol Oxidation Over Au and Pt Catalysts

Hibbitts, D. D., University of Virginia
Neurock, M., University of Virginia
Davis, R. J., University of Virginia
Zope, B. N., University of Virginia

First-Principles Comparison of Heterogeneous and Electrocatalytic Alcohol
Oxidation over Au and Pt Catalysts

D. Hibbitts, Bhushan Zope, Robert J. Davis and Matthew Neurock


In the emerging area of biorenewable-based
chemicals, most processes are low-temperature, aqueous phase reactions, in
stark contrast to the high-temperature, gas phase processes that dominate the current
petroleum-based chemicals industry. The shift of environments allows for
much-needed synergy in the areas of heterogeneous and electro-catalysis, a
field which has already demonstrated the importance of the metal-solvent interface.
One area in particular which has demonstrated similarities between electro- catalysis
and aqueous-phase heterogeneous catalysis is the oxidation of CO and alcohols.

Recent work1 on the alcohol
oxidation over Au and Pt has demonstrated that the oxidation occurs through
direct reaction with hydroxyl groups from the alkaline medium, summarized in
Figure 1. These hydroxyl groups act as both nucleophiles and Brønsted bases in
the selective oxidation of ethanol to acetic acid and isotopic labeling studies
have confirmed the source of oxygen in the acid products as the solvent, rather
than the gaseous O2. The O2 is still necessary for the reaction
to proceed, as it must be reduced to reform the consumed hydroxyl groups and
water. This reduction also removes excess electrons from the metal and closes
the catalytic cycle. Writing the oxidation and reduction separately gives the
following half-reactions:

+ 418OH- --> RCO18OH + 3H218O
+ 4e-                                                                                  (Eq

+ (2+x)H2O + 4e- --> xHOOH + 4OH-                                                                                  (Eq

shown in Equation 2, a byproduct of this oxidation is the production of
hydrogen peroxide, which can catalyze C-C cleavage through a variation of the
Cannizzaro reaction.

mechanism shows that the mechanism during heterogeneous catalysis is no
different from a short-circuited electrochemical cell, in which the oxidation
and reduction are occurring on the same metal particles. In fact,
electro-oxidation of alcohols and CO in alkaline media has been studied
previously over Au and Pt electrodes.

course, during electro-oxidation, there is an applied potential upon the metal
catalyst, which causes significant changes in the reactivity of the catalyst.
In order to further explore the similarities and differences between these two
systems, the calculations performed upon the heterogeneous oxidation were
redone using the double-reference method developed by Filhol, Taylor and
Neurock2. This allows for independent analysis of the effects of the
metal, potential and mechanism.


Figure 1. Reaction scheme for the oxidation of
alcohols to acids over a gold surface in water at high pH.


B.N. Zope, D.D. Hibbitts, M.
Neurock, and R.J. Davis. Science. 330. 74-77 (2010)

C.D. Taylor, S.A. Wasileski, J-S.
Filhol, and M. Neurock. Physical Review B. 73. 165402 (2006)